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Criminal gang members jailed after bungled late night bid to target ATM

L-R: Leonard Cristea, Ionut Madalin Iosif and Gheorghe Bratianu

THREE members of a criminal gang who attacked a north Cumbria petrol station in the dead of night in a botched bid to steal cash from an ATM machine have been locked up.

Carlisle Crown Court heard how four crooks had travelled from the North East in two vehicles late on November 5 with their sights set on snatching money contained within the Whiteclosegate filling station and Spar shop on the city’s northern outskirts.

Telephone and electricity lines were successfully cut, but attempts to disable the alarm and CCTV system failed. Police were alerted when the alarm sounded, while video footage continued to record and showed the crooks trying to enter the premises through a skylight using a crowbar.

Entry was gained, safes were opened and the ATM machine targeted but the raiders were disturbed and their loot was limited to only £300 cash.

“We suggest that the targeting of a cash machine on the grounds that they have a focus on that indicates a high value cash return was the aim,” prosecutor Charles Brown told the court.

As police arrived on scene, two men clad in dark clothing were seen fleeing the shop through a front door panel. One, also wearing gloves, was Gheorghe Bratianu, 33, who gave himself up after a short chase although, as this unfolded, a Range Rover without lights had driven towards four officers trying to stop him.

This vehicle was later stopped heading east on the A69 and led to the arrest of Ionut Madalin Iosif, 39, and 31-year-old Leonard Cristea.

Romanian nationals Bratianu and Iosif, both of Rodsley Avenue, and Cristea, of Claremont South Avenue, all Gateshead, later admitted conspiracy to commit burglary. The fourth person was never caught. All married men with children, they were each jailed for 26 months by Judge Nicholas Barker.

“This was a planned and focused conspiracy to burgle a commercial business property,” said Judge Barker, who concluded the raid was carefully planned and had included a reconnaissance mission the day before.

“Although some of you claim different roles, it is obvious to me that all three of you knew the terms of the plan, the conspiracy, its process, and all three of you were – if it had been successful – going to gain financially from it.”

Temporary Detective Constable Mark Hutchinson, North Cumbria Crime and Safeguarding Team, said: “We are pleased that these three individuals have been brought to justice.

“Today’s sentencing sends out a clear message to those viewing Cumbria as an easy target to commit crime. The three men had travelled across from the North East of the country to target this service station. We work closely with our colleagues in neighbouring forces and this has once again proven effective during our response to this incident.

“Our subsequent investigation was able to identify and piece together overwhelming evidence which resulted in these convictions.”

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