Warrants issued for ATM thieves
Warrants have been issued for two Bulgarian men who plundered cash machines in Bermuda after the Court of Appeal ruled their four-month prison terms were “manifestly inadequate”.
Chavdar Bachev and Georgi Todorov were not present in the Court of Appeal yesterday because they had already returned to Bulgaria after serving their initial sentence passed by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons.
But the appeal judges overturned the sentence and ruled that the appropriate sentence for both men should have been two years' imprisonment.
Larry Mussenden, Director of Public Prosecutions, welcomed the ruling.
“The Court of Appeal agreed with the submissions of Crown counsel Loxly Ricketts that the sentence of four months was manifestly inadequate,” Mr Mussenden said.
“Further it stated that ‘offences directed at the financial integrity of Bermuda, of which money laundering is one, are particularly serious and require deterrent sentences.'
“Our laws are clear on this and this department will treat these cases as very serious. We will not tolerate anyone, local or foreign, abusing our banking and financial systems as everyone works in Bermuda for a first-class reputation. This sentence will send a message of deterrence. We will now use our international partners to locate and if possible, extradite the two men to Bermuda so that they can serve their increased sentence of imprisonment.”
Bachev, 42, and Todorov, 41, were caught red-handed with more than $19,000 in cash at the airport as they tried to leave the island after their crime spree in February of this year.
They stole $4,500 from HSBC, $4,100 from Butterfield Bank and $11,300 from Clarien using bogus credit cards that were later recovered in the ATMs. They had also wired $2,700 out of the country to a third party.
The duo later told police they had found a bag containing the gold cards and a stash of cash in a bus stop as they sheltered from the rain. They admitted they used the cards to steal from ATMs and “got greedy” before trying to flee the island.
Bachev and Todorov, who were represented by lawyer Richard Horseman, both pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering.
Mrs Justice Simmons jailed the pair for four months saying the offences were “not the most serious in our criminal law”.
The prison term and the judge's comments prompted a successful appeal by the Department of Public Prosecutions against the sentences. The ruling by the Court of Appeal handed down yesterday stated: “The judge appears to have been overpersuaded by Mr Horseman for the respondents that these were ‘crimes of opportunity' rather than crimes of design and planning.”
Referring to the original sentence president Sir Scott Baker said: “In my judgment the judge fell into error in regarding anything other than the early guilty pleas and previous good character as mitigating factors.
“The fact that someone chooses to commit crimes while visiting Bermuda and is thereby unable to maintain family life while serving a prison sentence because their family abroad is not mitigation.”
Sir Scott Baker added: “I am satisfied that the total sentence of four months was manifestly inadequate.
“The question arose whether this was an appropriate case in which to grant leave and allow the Crown's appeal, bearing in mind that the respondents have left the country and are on a stop list as regards re-entry.
“In my judgment an appropriate sentence should be passed and the authorities can decide whether extradition proceedings are appropriate. I would allow the appeal and replace the sentence of four months' imprisonment in each case with one of two years' imprisonment concurrent on all of the offences.”