Belfast Telegraph

We bought clothes as gifts, say Romanians in stolen goods case

By Nevin Farrell

A couple found with £1,100 of suspected stolen clothing in their home have claimed the items were legally purchased as gifts for their family in Romania.

Remus Berchi (46), a meat factory worker, and 31-year-old Simona Nicoletta Rostas, both from the Toome Road in Ballymena, appeared side-by-side in the dock at the town’s magistrates’ court yesterday.

They are charged with handling 118 items of stolen goods on September 13 this year.

Rostas alone faces separate allegations — theft of a bra,  theft of four pairs of trousers worth £45 from H&M in Ballymena on the same date, and the theft of a pair of shoes worth £45 from Marks & Spencer in April this year.

In court yesterday, District Judge Peter King said he was allowing the couple to go on holiday in Romania, their home country, until October 8.

He added he was allowing them to do so because they had lodged £2,000 for bail, which more than covered the price of the allegedly stolen items.

Defence solicitor Stewart Ballentine told the same court last week the defendants had left the price tags on the items in question to show their relatives they were not second-hand.

Mr Ballentine added that his clients’ September 24 flight had been booked a number of weeks ago and that the clothing — most of it for children — had been bought over a period of time.

The police discovered the items of clothing when they went to the defendants’ home after Rostas was allegedly caught stealing a £14 bra from Marks & Spencer.

A police officer told the court last week he believed he could connect both of the defendants to the charges.

He also objected to bail, saying 118 items of clothing, with the price tags still attached and  worth £1,100, were found during a follow-up search of their home, with no receipts produced.

With evidence of a flight to Romania having been booked, the officer said there was a risk of further offending and a risk that the pair might not return to Northern Ireland.

Last week, Judge King granted bail for the sum of £1,000 each on the condition the defendants live at Toome Road. They were also banned from Marks & Spencer and H&M in Ballymena.

The case was adjourned until October 20.

Belfast Telegraph

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