ATM-raid gang linked to almost 30 other incidents

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A gang who stole more than £61,000 from a cash machine in Co Fermanagh is suspected of carrying out nearly 30 other raids across Northern Ireland, the High Court heard today.

Prosecutors said a dedicated team of detectives are probing all incidents being linked to a robbery where street lights were deactivated and telephone lines cut to prevent alarms being triggered.

Details emerged during a bail application by the alleged ringleader of the team accused of plundering the ATM at a filling station on the Irvinestown Road in Trory, near Enniskillen, on August 2.

Leonardo Petrovici, 32, a Romanian national with an address at Rannoche Close, Crossgar, denies charges of burglary and possessing criminal property.

Four other men and a woman are also accused of offences connected to the robbery, where a total of £61,340 was stolen.

Crown lawyer Adrian Higgins said street lighting, satellite dishes and electronic advertising in the area were all turned off before the raiders struck in the middle of the night.

Phone and broadband wires were also cut to ensure no security systems activated.

The court heard an angle grinder was used to cut a hole in the door of the ATM facility, enabling access to the bank bunker storing the money.

Based on CCTV footage, the masked gang then allegedly retreated to a nearby field to check for any alarms before returning to steal the cash.

A Mercedes car believed to be linked to the break-in was later found at the address where Petrovici lives, according to the prosecution.

Searches of that property led to the recovery of around £25,000, Mr Higgins said.

He claimed some of the money was located in sophisticated hides, including one plastered over and another behind skirting boards.

Tools, walkie-talkie radios, and gloves were seized.

Bank of Ireland £10 and £20 notes similar to those stolen were allegedly found on some of the accused at the house.

With £35,000 taken from the cash machine still missing, Mr Higgins claimed it could be used to help Petrovici abscond if released from custody.

The barrister also contended: “Police believe he’s part of an organised crime gang responsible for carrying out some 27 further incidents with a similar modus operandi between November 17 and August 18.

“Police point to the reality that there’s been no similar burglaries occurring within Northern Ireland since this gang has been arrested and the applicant remanded in custody.”

Defence counsel stressed, however, that Petrovici has not been charged with any other alleged raids.

He also submitted that his client has only been in Northern Ireland for a “short time”.

With the accused’s partner telling the court they arrived no more than six months ago, the bail application was adjourned for further checks to be carried out.

Mr Justice McCloskey requested documentary evidence of their joint flight from Budapest to Belfast.