Lowestoft cashpoint targeted in ‘skim’ scam, jury told

A CASH machine in Lowestoft was targeted by criminals running a debit card 'skimming' scam, a jury was told this week.

Police were alerted after people spotted two men acting suspiciously near a cashpoint outside the Co-operative store in Westwood Avenue, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

David Wilson, prosecuting, said the men had fitted a so-called skimming device to the automatic teller machine (ATM), made up of a false card reader that copied the details on a bank card's magnetic strip and a camera over the ATM to record the user's personal identification number (PIN).

With that information, he said, it would be possible to clone a bank card and obtain money from a bank account.

Mr Wilson told the jury that, on January 8, 2009, a witness noticed two men at the machine and saw one of them doing something to it while the other kept watch.

He played security camera footage which allegedly showed Laurentiu Balan and Gheorghe Petrescu making repeated visits to the area around the machine on the day in question.

Petrescu, 30, and Laurentiu Balan, 27, both of Harrow, Middlesex, have denied conspiring to steal cash from banks.

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Laurentiu Balan has also denied conspiring to steal cash from banks between September 29 and October 2, 2008 and converting criminal property.

His sister, Ramona Balan, 21, also of Harrow, has denied concealing criminal property.

None of the defendants was in court for their trial.

Mr Wilson said that, after the two men were arrested, police went to their home and saw Ramona Balan 'dash around' the living room and put a package behind the curtains before letting officers inside.

It was later found to contain �6,000 in cash which, Mr Wilson told the jury, she knew to be the proceeds of criminal activity.

Mr Wilson added that, when Laurentiu Balan was searched, police found receipts on him that related to fraudulent cash card transactions conducted using skimmed cards in the Liverpool area. He said the charge of converting criminal property against Laurentiu Balan related to �4,700 in cash and a cheque for �4,143 paid into his bank account.

'There is no specific evidence as to where that money came from, and the inference is that this is criminal property obtained by fraudulent means and placed in his bank account,' said Mr Wilson.

The trial was continuing yesterday as The Journal went to press.

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