Two women who travelled from the Birmingham area to deliberately target vulnerable people in Powys by posing as charity workers have been sentenced for stealing cash from an elderly man with learning difficulties.

Ronald Marples told police officers that the theft at his home in Llandrindod Wells made him feel "awful". Police were only alerted about the theft by a local cafe owner after 88-year-old Mr Marples told her what had happened to him on August 3 this year.

Young Romanian nationals Manuela Dobre, 21, and Darisa Tanase, 19, were later arrested in Newtown's Bear Lanes Shopping Centre again posing as charity workers with clipboards talking to an elderly man. Their driver, Ionatan Stan, 18, was also arrested in a nearby car park.

The trio were released from custody by Recorder Egan at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court on Friday (November 24) after spending 110 days in prison - the equivalent of a seven-month sentence - after pleading guilty to theft earlier this month.

The court heard that the trio travelled to Llandrindod Wells in a silver Audi Quattro driven by Stan for the "sole purpose" of stealing from vulnerable people.

 

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At about lunchtime on August 3 Dobre and Tanase arrived at Mr Marples' home in Station Crescent asking for donations.

Mr Marples, who has since died, had difficulties with his eyesight, was hard of hearing and needed a walking frame to get around. His carer Julie Dean told police that he had learning difficulties, and his health was deteriorating before the incident.

He told police that he saw the women's names on the clipboard and agreed to give them money but couldn't remember his postcode when he was asked. The thieves then followed him into the house, but he couldn't remember inviting them in.

He said that one defendant asked if he lived alone and an another gave him a kiss while the other passed behind him before leaving the house.

About an hour later, Mr Marples noticed that £150 kept in a mug on his mantlepiece was missing. He phoned the police but because of his poor hearing he was unable hear the operator.

When Mr Marples told the owner of local cafe Fresh Fills, police and his carer were alerted about the theft.

CCTV footage showed the two women in Mr Marples# porch before entering the property then leaving "briskly" three minutes later.

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Police arrested the trio in Newtown. Officers found a piece of paper with a list of donations hidden in Dobre's bra and another inside Tanase's vagina. The women also had more than £250 cash with them.

The court also heard that a phone was seized which showed online searches in Romanian during the days and weeks before the incident of two girls stealing watches from old men, stealing jewellery and clothes, with references to somebody being a look out.

Tanase was convicted of a similar offence of fraud by falsely representing a charity worker in Cheshire in May 2019, and shoplifting with Dobre in July this year.

Barristers for all three defendants asked that they be released from prison after already serving more than three months while on remand which the judge agreed.

Dobre, aged 21, and Tanase, aged 19, were sentenced to 18 weeks in prison and young offender institution (YOI) respectively. While Stan, aged 18, was given a 12-week sentence in a YOI.

Recorder Egan said: "[Mr Marples] was vulnerable because of his infirmary and frailty and money was stolen from him after you posed as charity workers. You deployed guile and cunning in order to steal £150 taken from his mantlepiece.

"You knew the intent was going to Powys for a dishonest purpose to target more vulnerable people.

"It was a joint enterprise where you foresaw a vulnerable individual would be deliberately targeted."