Distraction Cashpoint Thieves Jailed

A gang of distraction thieves who preyed on vulnerable members of the public as they were withdrawing money at cashpoints have been jailed for a total of ten years.

The gang were led by Wilmer Cardenes, 38, in committing offences in Brighton and Crawley. Cardenes also worked with a different set of individuals to target vulnerable victims in London and Northampton.

The four adult members of the gang involved in the south coast offences, all of no fixed abode, were sentenced at Hove Crown Court.

Cardenes was jailed for five years for three counts of conspiracy to steal, one count of assault (ABH) and possessing an offensive weapon. A charge of conspiracy to rob against him will remain on file.

The gang members who were Cardenes' accomplices involved in the offences in Crawley and Brighton were sentenced as follows: Genaro Martinez-Morales, 43 was jailed for two years for one count of conspiracy to steal.

Berthan Rodriguez-Olmes, 48 was jailed for 18 months for one count of conspiracy to steal.

Maria Salguerra-Guerra, 45 was jailed for 18 months for one count of conspiracy to steal.

The method used by Cardenes and his various accomplices was to identify potential targets immediately outside or inside banks, often retaking their places in the queue for the cashiers' desks in order to observe better. A substance would often be thrown on the clothing of the victim, who would be surrounded by members of the group and offered help, thereby creating a diversion allowing other members to steal the cash the victim had just withdrawn.

In one case, Cardenes working with other individuals not involved in the Hove Crown Court case, followed a 69-year-old London woman who had taken out £5,000 from the Santander bank in Dalston Lane, Hackney onto the bus she was catching home. Other accomplices followed by car. After the victim had got off the bus and was walking to her house they marked her by spraying a foul-smelling substance on her coat and stole the cash.

In Northamptonshire, Cardenes, again working with different individuals to the three sentenced at Hove Crown Court, identified a female victim in her 50s who withdrew £2,500 from a Natwest bank in the Drapery, Northampton. When she got back to her vehicle in the car park, she found her tyres were deflated. The group offered their help and as she was distracted they stole the money and made off.

In Crawley, Sussex, in November, 2010, Cardenes and Martino-Morales, identified a male victim in his 40s who was followed into the HSBC bank. He was sprayed with a yellow liquid, believed to be mustard, but the gang eventually decided to leave him alone after the victim became suspicious.

Later the same day, Cardenes and Martino-Morales picked up the two women in the group and the four travelled on to Brighton, where they targeted a retired man who had just withdrawn a large sum of money in the Halifax in the town centre. The money was specifically to help his student daughter.

The gang followed their victim into Marks and Spencer, where they sprayed his coat with a white substance, then purporting to be good Samaritans approached with tissues offering to help clean him up. One took hold of the victim's bag, and stole the envelope containing the cash.

The group were stopped at a later point after they had left the scene by car. All the money was recovered from the car, including their most recent victim's money from the Halifax in Brighton, which was returned to the victim.

DC Matt Haslam, of the MPS London Crime Squad, said: "I am pleased with the sentences which I hope will offer some comfort to victims and also serve as a deterrent to others who seek to target vulnerable individuals, particularly the elderly.”


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