Romanian citizen jailed in Samoa for stealing from ATMs

Romanian citizen Catalin Razvan outside court

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 09 JULY 2018: A Romanian citizen, Catalin Razvan has been jailed for to 7 months in Samoa for stealing from Automated Teller Machines (ATM) belonging to the Bank South Pacific (BSP).

Razvan was convicted on 30 counts of theft from 9 ATMs that included 10 of theft, 10 charges for accessing an electronic system without authority and 10 of accessing an ATM system for a dishonest purpose. Razvan denied all charges.

The amount stolen was $3750 from overseas accounts.

District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papalii ordered that the days Razvan had spent in custody awaiting his sentence be deducted from the 7 months sentence.

She also ordered that Razvan’s passport remain in the custody of the Court Registrar.

While the District Court does not have the authority to issue a deportation order, the Judge urged Prosecution to liaise with the Immigration Office to deport Razvan as soon as he has served his sentence.

“He should be shipped out the moment he completes his time,” said Judge Alalatoa.

She also explained her reason for a custodian sentence despite its impact on the taxpayers.

“I am very mindful that the sentence of custodial time will place huge access and extra burden on taxpayers and people to look after Mr. Razvan while he serves his time, but deterrence and denouncement is the message that must be laid out,” said the Judge.

The Case
Razvan arrived in Samoa 18 June 2018 and stayed at Tanoa Hotel in Sogi. On the same day, he executed his plan and stole from 2 ATM machines. Then on 19 June 2018, he again stole from 7 other ATM machines.

Razvan was in Vanuatu and Tonga and similar offences took place in these islands, but before the authorities could move in, Razvan was already on his way to Samoa.

Unknown to Razvan, Vanuatu and Tonga had alerted Samoa of a certain and suspicious pin number.

BSP had the pin number under its surveillance so when Razvan used the number on the machines in Samoa, the Bank easily picked it up and the police arrested Razavn at his hotel room.

Premeditation and planning the offence was highly significant
In passing sentence Judge Alalatoa said the amount stolen was not significant but the level of premeditation in Razvan’s part in planning the offence was highly significant.

“You arrived on our shores with a plan ready for launching, picked a central hotel in town to stay, studied the location of each ATM machine in town, Tanugamanono, Tufuiopa, Lotopa, and Vaitele, then used a mechanical device to access the machines,” said the Judge.

“In my respective opinion, you had already had access to data of accounts you stole from. Police found 22 cards with strips you used for the offence in your hotel room,” said Judge Alalatoa.

She pointed out that Razvan also hired a vehicle to get around from one ATM to another and even went out of his way to use clothing that assisted camouflage his true identity

“The level of your premeditation of the offence was very highly significant, and we are not talking about an isolated incident but multiple offences that took place systematically over a period of 3 days,” said the Judge.

The offence has impacted negatively not only financially on the bank refunding all customers monies, but also on its reputation as a trusted bank.

Razvan through his counsel said that he came to Samoa to set up a business, but according to Judge Rosella, Razvan business is scheming and scamming money from innocent people.

Judge Rosella took into account as mitigating factors letters from Razvan’s mother, sister and Romanian Consular citing Razvan as a “good boy” and the fact that Razvan had already paid the money back.