A member of an Eastern European gang that robbed high-end fashion wear and thousands of euro worth of expensive perfumes in night- time raids in Munster was yesterday jailed for five and a half years.
Aurimas Petraska, a native of Lithuania, who lived in Newcastle West, Co Limerick, for a period, was paid €2,000 for his part in the raids.
The gang used cars reinforced with concrete and iron fittings to ram in the front of businesses.
Petraska had previous convictions for robberies in the Netherlands and Norway, and travelled regularly between Ireland and Lithuania. The military-style operation of the gang, which led to a multi-international agency investigation involving other European police forces, was commented on by Judge Tom O’Donnell when passing sentence at Limerick Circuit Court.
“These were highly sophisticated burglaries, carried out with military precision, and the items taken, which included expensive perfumes and high-end fashions, were taken to order,” said the judge. “This is a very serious case, a professional job planned to the last detail and executed with military precision. Thousands of hours of Garda time were spent going through CCTV and mobile phones and the gardaí are to be commended for their painstaking investigation.”
In one raid, fashion wear with a retail value of €240,000 was stolen from a boutique in Adare. The property was found by gardaí in a logistics company warehouse in Dublin, ready to be shipped to Lithuania.
Such was their precision, the gang rammed into O’Connor’s Pharmacy in Kinsale, Co Cork, cleared Chanel perfumes worth €50,000 and sped off, all within the space of six minutes.
They wore dark military-type dress with balaclavas, and night lights attached to headbands. A Volvo which had been bought cheaply was altered and fitted with concrete and iron supports for ramming buildings.
Petraska, aged 32, pleaded guilty to his part in the series of robberies.
Detective Garda Michael Brosnan, Kinsale, said a high degree of efficiency and professionalism was apparent in the raids.
n When the gang targeted O’Brien’s Pharmacy in Cahir, Co Tipperary, on September 10, 2015, more than €20,000 worth of Chanel perfumes was stolen after the front of the premises was rammed, causing €27,000 damage.
In his victim impact statement, the pharmacy owner said he now lives in constant worry.
In the six-minute raid in October 2014 on O’Connor’s Pharmacy in Kinsale they made off with Chanel perfumes worth €50,000 and caused €10,000 worth of damage.
Kieran O’Connor said the business had been operating in Kinsale for 20 years and up to the time of the raid, took safety for granted. Now, he said, they look at the world through a different prism.
Huge security measures taken included the erection of anti-ram bars at the front of the premises, which detracted from the aesthetic appearance of the building.
He said he also had to take a new look at his personal safety and the safety of the staff. Insurance cover had increased substantially.
n Kay Mulcaire of Isobel’s boutique in Adare said the retail value of the property taken from her shop was €240,000 and the insurance would not pay out as the alarm was off on the night of the robbery. She is struggling to keep the business going due to the loss and is in fear every time she opens and closes the shop.
Judge O’Donnell said as well as the financial loss, the victim impact statements clearly showed the huge personal effect the crimes had on the owners of the businesses and those working there.
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