An alert CCTV operator alerted the police after seeing two men forcing off the card slot apertures from a Rugby town centre bank’s cash machines.
Although of little or no value in themselves, they could have been used to make false fascias to capture the card details of people using other cash machines, a judge has heard.
Romanian national Romeo Petre was jailed for ten months after he pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to stealing the two Barclays card slot apertures.
And Judge Alan Parker recommended that Petre, 37, of Bishopgate Green, Coventry, should be deported after serving his sentence.
Prosecutor Stefan Kolodynski said that at 10.30pm on September 9 last year a Rugby town centre CCTV operator noticed two men approach the cash machines on the wall of Barclays Bank in North Street.
The other man was seen interfering with one of the machines while Petre acted as lookout.
They then both walked away and stopped by a tree in Park Road where the other man put a bag on the ground before they returned to the bank and attacked the other cash machine, again with Petre acting as lookout.
The other man put something up his sleeve, and as they walked off back towards Park Road he was seen to drop something which the CCTV operator believed was a large screwdriver.
The police were alerted, and when officers stopped them they found one of the stolen card slot apertures.
Police dog Cooper and his handler Pc Karen Richards then searched the area and found the other one and a large chisel which had been used during the thefts.
Of the card slot apertures, Mr Kolodynski pointed out: “They have intrinsically little or no value, but the reason they are stolen forms part of organised crime.
“They are used in skimming machines and to construct false fronts for cash machines, the purpose being to obtain cash or other persons’ credit card details.”
Jeremy Lynn, defending, added: “It is not uncommon for the fascia to be removed from the machine and then replaced with one capable of recording the details of people’s bank cards.
“That seems to be the most likely explanation for what was going on, but the defendant was not aware what the purpose was.
“He was a secondary party to what took place. He accepts he had driven the other man to the scene, and would have driven him away.”
Mr Lynn said Petre had come to the UK in 2001 and has worked hard as a painter and decorator to send money home to his wife and three children in Romania.
“He has spent the last four months in custody. The result has been that she has been left without the only income to support the family,” he added.
Jailing Petre, Judge Alan Parker told him: “You committed the theft with another person. I deal with you on the basis that you were acting together and that each of you knew what the purpose was.
“The inevitable inference is that you and the other man were engaged together as part of some organised crime.
“It is an irresistible inference that the purpose for obtaining these two card slot apertures was to create a machine that would skim other people’s cards or, more likely, to create a false fascia to place on other automated teller machines.”
Judge Parker said he accepted Petre had come to this country to work, but had become involved in a group involved in organised crime – and he recommended that the UK Border Agency ‘should give serious consideration’ to deporting him.
The judge added: “The clear message needs to be sent that in the United Kingdom we are a welcoming and inclusive society, and people who come here from other parts of the world are welcome if they are here to work.
“The equal message has to be sent that those who come here and involve themselves in fraud are no longer welcome.”