A Romanian national who scammed elderly shoppers across the north, including in Craigavon and Lurgan, has been sent to prison.
A man scammed the pensioners by getting hold of their bank cards and PINs at supermarkets.
Catalin Sandhu, whose address is Crowther Street in Wolverhampton, England, targeted seven pensioners last summer.
The scam involved looking over victims’ shoulders while they entered their PIN at check-outs before fooling them into opening purses or wallets outside.
Sandhu is to spend 15 months in jail.
The 39-year-old will serve the second half of his 30-month sentence on supervised licence on his release.
The victims of the scam were six elderly women and one man, all targeted by Sandhu and his co-accused on dates between 17 May and 23 June last year.
The judge at Belfast Crown Court said they had been picked “specifically because they were old and vulnerable”.
Over the course of the scam, the pair withdrew a total amount of £9,000 at supermarkets in greater Belfast, Lisburn, Sprucefield and Carrickfergus as well as Lurgan and Craigavon.
One of the cards was used in Drogheda in the Republic of Ireland.
A prosecutor lawyer told the court that in each instance, when elderly customers were using their bank cards to pay for goods at various supermarkets, one of the men would look over their shoulder to see what PIN number they were entering.
They would then approach the pensioner outside the supermarket, pretending they had dropped a bank note, or asking if they had change of a bank note.
Under this pretext, the pensioner would then open their purse or wallet and using a “sleight of hand”, Sandhu and his co-accused removed the bank card without the victim’s knowledge.
In each case, the card was “used immediately to withdraw the maximum amount of cash and also purchase groceries”, the prosecutor lawyer said.
After police examined CCTV from the supermarkets, Sandhu was arrested in England and brought back to Belfast for questioning.
However, over the course of six interviews, he refused to answer PSNI detectives’ questions.
He later pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud by false representation, and one count of attempted theft from a person.
His co-accused has already been sentenced and is currently serving a jail term.
Sandhu’s defence solicitor said his client was “truly remorseful for his actions” and wanted to work to repay his victims.
The solicitor told the court Sandhu had a “mental breakdown” after his arrest and wants to be transferred to an English prison.