Wanted man in gang accused of shoplifting

Published: 11 Oct 2012 13:000 comments

An alleged kidnapper and sex offender on the run from police was among a suspected gang of shoplifters arrested in Enniskillen on Saturday.

Nicolae Covaci.

Nicholae Covaci is wanted in Surrey in England on foot of an arrest warrant from Guildford Crown Court on charges of kidnap and sexual assault.

The 22-year-old, of no fixed abode, initially presented police in Enniskillen with a driving licence in the name of a different person. However, when officers ran his fingerprints through an electronic scanner they came up with the name Nicholae Covaci, which is also the name of a famous Romanian rock star, best known as the leader of cult band Phoenix.

A policewoman told Fermanagh Court she was still trying to establish and verify the identity of the five suspects, several of whom gave false names and aliases, various dates of birth and no addresses.

Covaci appeared in the dock alongside 19-year-old Fabian Muntean, from Liffey Lawns, Clane, County Kildare, and his heavily pregnant 20-year-old girlfriend, Armanca Muntean. The court heard that she has three addresses, at Liffey Lawns, Newbridge in County Kildare and Buncrana in County Donegal.

Two other women were also in the dock: 30-year-old Lina Muntean, of no fixed abode, and Andrea Rostas, also of no fixed abode, who refused to give police her date of birth.

Outlining the background to the case a policewoman told the court that on Saturday, October 6, police were called to the Salvation Army Hall at Hall's Lane in Enniskillen after two Romanian women allegedly accosted a man outside the hall and "patted him down". Officers saw the women walking away from them, up Head Street and into Church Street, where they lost sight of them.

Police on foot patrol located the women in the Eden Street Car Park and on searching them found labels relating to a pair of trousers from S. D. Kells, the clothing shop. The women were arrested on suspicion of theft. Staff at Kells confirmed that two women had been in the shop and they had seen one of them kneeling on the floor.

The constable said that when police apprehended the two women they saw a third woman and two men walking away from them. The officers circulated a description of the three people and they were picked up on CCTV in Belmore Street. The police stopped and spoke to them and they were "very obstructive", saying they did not come to Enniskillen in a vehicle and did not have a vehicle, claiming they had been dropped off by a relative. They were searched and found to have the keys to a vehicle. Officers discovered a white Ford Transit van parked at Head Street and recovered two pairs of trousers and two jackets rolled up in a ball.

All five initially appeared in the dock together, sniggering and passing comments, as the clerk attempted to read the charges to each of them in turn.

District Judge John Meehan asked the interpreter to remind them that they were in a court of law.

When they continued to make remarks he ordered all but one of them to be taken back to the holding cells and then dealt with each individually. Even then he had to suspend the hearing as the banging and shouting from the cells disrupted the proceedings. He adjourned for a few minutes, telling defence solicitor, Mr. Barry Lynam, to speak to his clients and warn them that if they continued to make a racket he would jail them for a week.

All five are charged with four offences: going equipped for theft, by carrying screwdrivers, knives and pliers; having labels belonging to the Tesco supermarket in Enniskillen in connection with a fraud; handling stolen goods, namely trousers and jackets; and obstructing police.

Rostas and Lina Muntean are further charged with stealing a pair of trousers worth £99 from S.D. Kells.

Covaci is also charged with using a Ford Transit van at Head Street in Enniskillen without insurance.

The policewoman told the court she could connect all five to the charges.

The court heard that the police believed this was a joint venture involving all five.

Mr. Lynam applied for the five to be released on bail but acknowledged that he did not have an address in Northern Ireland for them and could not offer a cash surety that they would turn up for their trial.

Rostas claimed she did not understand the charges but the District Judge said he believed she was just being obstructive.

Objecting to her being released on bail, the policewoman said she had two names for Rostas and no address or date of birth. She said police had spoken to gardai and been informed that she uses another name and has convictions for theft.

She said the police had further inquiries to carry out and believed there was a real risk of flight and that the defendant would not come back to Enniskillen.

The District Judge said: "There is no basis for granting bail."

He said there were reasonable grounds and suspicions for believing Rostas operated under various names with the intention of avoiding various authorities and he suspected her first course if released on bail would be to "disappear".

Covaci said he understood the charges against him.

The policewoman said Covaci had given police a driving licence bearing another man's name and claimed to be that person. However, his fingerprints had identified him as Covaci and he was wanted in Surrey on charges of kidnapping and sexual assault.

The District Judge said the information that there was a warrant for Covaci's arrest in relation to very serious charges "means bail must be refused".

Lina Muntean said she understood the charges.

The policewoman said she had initially given another name and had not supplied an address nor date of birth. Police had various aliases and dates of birth for her. She also had convictions for selling the Big Issue without a licence, and for public order and theft offences.

Refusing her bail, the District Judge said it appeared that providing contradictory information to evade justice was the first line of defence and there was a risk of flight.

Fabian Muntean said he understood the charges against him.

The policewoman said he had given two dates of birth and two addresses, in Emyvale in County Monaghan and Kildare, and had previous convictions for burglary and theft.

Mr. Lynam told the court Muntean had been living in Ireland for 12 years, had an address in Kildare and was in a relationship with Armanca Muntean.

"She has an address in Donegal," the District Judge pointed out.

Mr. Lynam said that was incorrect. He said she had an address at Newbridge in Kildare and that she and Fabian Muntean had a three-year-old daughter being looked after by her grandfather.

The solicitor gave the name of the grandfather.

The prosecutor pointed out that the name was one of the aliases used by one of the other defendants.

The District Judge said there was still a cloud of unknowns about who these people are, where they live and their background.

"The risk of flight is too great," he stated, remanding Fabian Muntean in custody.

As he was taken back to the cells Muntean shouted: "This is not true."

Armanca Muntean told the court she understood the charges against her.

The policewoman said Armanca Muntean had given an address in Buncrana. A check with gardai showed she had used three addresses. She had also failed to provide formal proof of her identity.

Mr. Lynam said Armanca Muntean had a child in Kildare and was expecting a second child in January.

The District Judge said there were the same impediments to granting her bail in regard to a lack of confidence in respect of her identity and address.

Remanding her in custody, he said the risk of her "simply disappearing is far too great".

However, the said that if her GP, social worker or health visitor could be identified "that might just make a difference".

In the meantime he remanded all five in custody to appear at Fermanagh Court by video link on November 5.

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