A man who was part of a gang who followed an elderly woman after she left a supermarket has been jailed for five months.
Gardaí suspect she was followed after using her credit card, and Judge Seamus Hughes said the gang believed she was a soft target because of her age.
He complimented gardaí and neighbours who alerted them.
“If it wasn’t for the vigilance and alertness of neighbours, God knows what might have happened,” he said.
Dan Cirpaci (25 ) of Temple Hall, Parnell Street, Dublin pleaded guilty to trespassing at a private residence at Kerinstown, Killucan where the older woman was visiting a friend on September 9 last year at around 11.30am.
Cirpaci was a front seat passenger in a green Volvo and he and two women jumped out of the car and followed the older woman as she drove through electric gates into her friend’s house.
They tried to stop her, with one of the women saying she was pregnant and needed to go the hospital, but the woman driver was immediately suspicious and locked her car.
When vigilant neighbours arrived on the scene, words were exchanged and the three ran away.
Acting on the neighbours’ information, gardaí stopped the car on the N4 slipway at The Downs.
The two women were charged with trespass but have since returned to Romania. Bench warrants have been issued for their arrest.
Investigating Garda Brian Craven said the older woman had been shopping in Tesco, Mullingar earlier that morning and was unaware she was being followed.
After gardaí found a receipt from Tesco, they called the store where the security guard explained that two males had been acting suspiciously outside the shop earlier, walking in and out for no reason.
The woman had used her credit car to pay for groceries, and Garda Craven said it was his belief they were watching people with credit and debit cards.
Cirpaci has never been in prison but has 38 previous convictions, including one for trespass.
Judge Hughes said he has an appalling record and was convicted of a wide range of sophisticated and elaborate offences.
He was unimpressed with Cirpaci’s late plea on the morning the case was due to be heard.
All the witnesses were in court, including three older women, described by the judge as “genteel ladies” who had better things to be doing than attending court.
He said he was sure they weren’t enjoying the experience.
Barrister Laura Flood said her client, a father of one, is no longer friends with the other people. They arrived at the house following SatNav directions, she said, and said Cirpaci had been in Tesco looking for work.
But the store’s security guard confirmed neither of the men spoke to store staff and didn’t hand in CVs.
Judge Hughes described this as a ruse, said Cirpaci showed no remorse, and jailed him for five months.