Devious pair posed as NHS workers to steal bank card from elderly woman during pandemic

A devious pair who tracked down an elderly woman and pretended to be NHS workers before stealing her bank card have been jailed.

The victim entered her pin number at an ASDA checkout whilst being watched by Romanian pair Andra Gheorghe and Florin Butonasi, who then followed her all the way to her door.

The pair appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on November 18 in relation to a number of offences in the South Shields and Newcastle.

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The court heard how the duo even brought the lady a gift on October 16, whilst under the guise of carrying out a routine check.

Florin Butonasi and Andra GheorgheFlorin Butonasi and Andra Gheorghe
Florin Butonasi and Andra Gheorghe

Ellen Wright, prosecuting, said: "Mr Butonasi was watching the woman enter her pin number as she paid for her shopping.

"The defendants then attended her home address where they mis-represented themselves as being from the NHS.

"They told her that they were conducting a check and shortly afterwards they left.

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"After the defendants left her, the woman noticed her purse was taken.

Florin ButonasiFlorin Butonasi
Florin Butonasi

"A bank card from her purse had been used to complete a number of transactions."

The court heard that £500 had been withdrawn at a nearby cash machine, and almost £100 worth of goods had been bought at TX Max in Byker, as well as two further failed transactions.

Ms Wright added: "A bank card from the purse had been found in the hotel room of the defendants."

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Judge Amanda Rippon summarised a victim impact statement from the 83-year-old woman, and said: "The victim says there has been a significant impact on her.

Andra GheorgheAndra Gheorghe
Andra Gheorghe

"She has lost her appetite.

"She's been having dizzy spells, she's not sleeping.

"She doesn't feel safe in her own home anymore.

"Her husband passed away two years ago so she has been living alone.

"She had been trying to save up for presents for her grandchildren and her great grandchildren."

Gheorghe, 29, of Jasper Road, London and Butonasi, 31, of Balfour Street, Kirkcaldy, Fife, both pleaded guilty to non-dwelling burglary and four counts of fraud by false representation.

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Jamie Adams, mitigating for Butonasi and Steven Reid for Gheorghe accepted custodial sentences were inevitable.

Mr Adams said: "Mr Butonasi came to this country looking for work and also because his own father was ill.

"This was really to try better his family's circumstances.

"He expresses himself in the time I had with him to be utterly ashamed that he allowed himself to behave in such a way."

Judge Rippon jailed Gheorghe, who has history of dishonesty offences, for four years whilst Butonasi who is of previous good character, was imprisoned for three years and eight months.

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She told them: "This burglary was a despicable, disgusting and abhorrent offence.

"I have not got the slightest doubt that you were both in the supermarket looking for a victim - a vulnerable victim.

"It is hard for me to begin to imagine what it's like to be 83 in the middle of a pandemic.

"She opened the door and was pleased to see visitors from the NHS and she invited you into her home.

"There is no mitigation but your guilty pleas here."

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