Belfast Telegraph

Daniel Marincu tried to access government pension database

By John Cassidy

A man has pleaded guilty to trying to infiltrate a government pensions website as part of a major computer hacking operation.

Daniel Marincu (32), of no fixed abode, appeared at Belfast Crown Court yesterday to be arraigned on a total of four charges linked to an identity fraud scam, which was uncovered during a raid on an apartment in the city a year ago.

He was arrested after police seized a laptop said to contain bank details for multiple individuals and set up to print counterfeit Spanish La Liga football tickets.

Marincu, a Romanian national, pleaded guilty to charges of possessing articles for use in fraud, fraud by false representation and unauthorised access to computer material.

The defendant entered a not guilty plea to a charge of theft of a bank statement.

He was detained when officers swooped on an apartment at Alfred Street in the city on June 28 last year.

Defence counsel Michael Boyd told the court that discussions were ongoing with the prosecution in relation to the charge of theft of a bank statement.

Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland said he was going to list the case for trial on October 5 on the charge of theft and would also hear a plea and sentencing hearing on the same date on the three charges Marincu admitted.

However, he added that if the trial date was no longer needed following discussions between the defence and the prosecution, the court office should be alerted.

Judge McFarland ordered a pre-sentence report from the Probation Service and remanded Marincu back into custody until October 5.

No details were given in court yesterday about the nature of the charges, but a previous hearing was told Marincu was detained after police carried out an intelligence-led search to identify any victims of people trafficking.

Two women in the Alfred Street flat with him confirmed they were escorts, but denied knowing the accused.

Marincu is not accused of any exploitation or trafficking offences.

Instead, the prosecution contend that a laptop used by him contained a programme capable of accessing other computers.

Photos on the screen showed bank and credit card statements for another individual in the same apartment complex.

Another command window showed an attempt to get into a government pensions website, it was alleged.

Investigations launched by cyber crime officers revealed multiple identity cards for a variety of foreign nationals were stored in files on the device, the court heard.

Names, addresses, dates of birth, phone and credit card numbers, passwords and log-in details were all said to have been detected.

Marincu claimed to police that he came to Northern Ireland after developing a relationship with a woman he met online.

He had previously told detectives that any computer hacking was carried out by others at the address accessing the laptop.

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