'This is an abhorrent crime' - police condemn pair who stole South Shields OAP's savings

Police have condemned two “malicious and devious” thieves who preyed on a vulnerable pensioner after following her home from the supermarket.

Florin Butonasi and Andra-Mihaela Gheorghe targeted their 82-year-old victim at Asda, in South Shields, and pretended to be NHS workers after they knocked on her door before stealing her purse.

They then used a bank card to withdraw £500 in cash, buy £100 of goods and during two failed transactions before they were arrested when the card was discovered by police in a hotel room the pair were using.

Gheorghe, 29, of Jasper Road, London, was jailed for four years and Butonasi, 31, of Balfour Street, Kirkcaldy, in Scotland, for three years and eight months on November 18 after both admitted burglary and four counts of fraud by false representation at Newcastle Crown Court.

Florin Butonasi and Andra Gheorghe have been jailed after posing as NHS workers to steal a South Shields OAP's purse.

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Detective Sergeant Adele Reed, of Northumbria Police, who led the investigation, has now said: “This is an abhorrent crime at any time, but particularly when we are all pulling together to tackle the pandemic and looking out for the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“Butonasi and Gheorghe should be ashamed of themselves and their actions, preying on an elderly woman who they clearly identified as vulnerable while loitering in the supermarket.”

She added: “I’m sure the public will agree that there is no place in our society for manipulative and devious individuals like them.

“I hope this case also highlights the importance that the public, especially those living alone, are aware of this type of criminality and do not fall victim themselves.

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“Please keep checking on loved ones who may be isolated and who are the most vulnerable in our communities. Do not invite strangers into your home or give out any personal details, and always ask for identification if workers you do not know knock at your door.

“If you are not sure about somebody who has tried to sell you anything or who is seen acting suspiciously in your area, contact police on 101 as soon as possible.”

During the hearing 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.”

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