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Man accused of being ‘runner’ for gang who posed as cops to con pensioners refused bail


Belfast Magistrates' Court

Belfast Magistrates' Court

Belfast Magistrates' Court

A man accused of being a "runner" for a gang who posed as police officers to con pensioners out of cash and jewellery must remain in custody, a judge ruled today.

John Delaney, 44, was refused bail over his alleged involvement with a wider criminal network behind more than 300 incidents across Northern Ireland.

Delaney, of Hazel View in Belfast, is charged in connection with scams against two elderly women in the city on May 7 this year.

He faces two counts of fraud by pretending to be a policeman and two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

The case is related to a year-long investigation into an organised crime gang suspected of targeting vulnerable members of the public.

People aged in their eighties and nineties were contacted and persuaded to hand over valuables to assist with investigations into crime, according to detectives.

Some victims were told cash needed to be taken for safekeeping because their houses were being watched.

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Others were informed checks had to be carried out on their money to rule it out from a fictitious inquiry into fraud.

Belfast Magistrates' Court was told 40 victims lost up to £190,000 in cash and £15,000 worth of jewellery.

Nine people have been charged with fraud-related offences linked to a total of 320 incidents.

Delaney is accused of one incident in the Stewartstown Road area where a woman was said to be questioned about her home security.

On disclosing that she had saved £2,600 from her pension since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown, the money was handed over to someone who called to collect it, a previous court heard.

In a separate alleged incident on the same day a woman aged 79 was targeted at York Road.

A telephone caller pretending to be a police officer from the serious fraud squad told her that she was going to be robbed.

She agreed to leave £2,500 in her garden, with the money then collected.

Delaney is allegedly linked to the incidents by CCTV footage and taxi records.

Opposing his application for bail, a detective claimed the defendant knows where both victims live and could contact them again.

"They are elderly, vulnerable and were sucked into believing these were police officers in the first place," he said.

Defence lawyer Diarmaid Kelly stressed his client is not alleged to have come into physical contact with either victim.

Based on the case against Delaney, the solicitor argued: "He is no higher up than the bottom-end person, being directed to collect parcels."

Asked to rank the accused's alleged role in the gang, the detective agreed with that assessment.

"One person makes the phone call, and a second one is the runner. We say he (Delaney) is one of the runners," he added.

But denying bail, District Judge Ted Magill held: "I'm not persuaded the time has yet come when an excessive period has been spent in custody."

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