A member of a female Romanian shoplifting gang which hit shops in Coleraine was wearing a pair of baggy tracksuit bottoms tied tightly at the knees underneath a long skirt as a place to conceal stolen goods, a court heard.
Three women, from the same address in Coalisland, County Tyrone, were given suspended sentences at Coleraine Magistrates Court last week.
District Judge Peter King told the hearing that it was clear they were a “team” and it was a planned and co-ordinated visit to Coleraine with the “sole purpose of robbing and shoplifting from the merchants of this town”.
He said he took a dim view to such targeting of businesses especially as two of the three women before the court had a previous similar conviction for shoplifting in Omagh.
The gang had carried out a pre-Christmas shoplifting raid in Coleraine.
Shoes, coats and jeans worth hundreds of pounds were taken from four stores on December 12 last year, the court heard.
In March sentence had been deferred in their case after a judge asked to see if they had any criminal records in their homeland.
At court on last Monday Alina Cirpacill (26), Anca Cirpaciu (19) and Teresa Nicula (35) were present to be sentenced for theft and Nicula had an extra charge of handling stolen goods.
The same address for all three was given as Comber Terrace, Coalisland, but previously had been given as Barrack Street in the County Tyrone town.
A prosecutor told the court a number of people were spotted acting suspiciously in Coleraine and when police swooped on two vehicles in a Tesco carpark they found a number of stolen items and arrests were made.
The prosecutor said one of the gang was wearing a pair of baggy tracksuit bottoms which were tied tightly at the knees underneath a long skirt.
The trio had previously pleaded guilty to the offences and admitted to arranging with each other to target Coleraine in a shoplifting blitz.
Defence barrister Francis Rafferty for Cirpacill said his client is a married mother-of-one on benefits with a previous conviction for theft.
Barrister Alan Stewart for Cirpaciu said his client recently gave birth to her first child but normally has some agency work.
Another barrister, Michael Smyth, for Nicula said his client, a mother-of-five works as an agency worker with Moy Park, and had a previous offence.
He said it was not disputed that it was a premeditated raid.
Judge King said the public purse did not need to pay for the women to go into custody but as a reminder to them that the gang’s behaviour was unacceptable he imposed suspended sentences on the defendants.
They were all given three month sentences but Cirpaciu’s was suspended for a year and Cirpacill and Nicula, because of their records, were given 18 month suspended periods.
*Other court: A man has been charged with being disorderly in Coleraine. Aaron James Samuel Fielding (21), of Cromlech Park, Portstewart, is accused of using disorderly behaviour in a public place - on Saturday February 20.