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Mission Compostable: Pair jailed for daring heist at garden centre

Ovidiu Dinu and Gabriel Fratila
Ovidiu Dinu and Gabriel Fratila

Two daring safe-crackers are behind bars after police connected them to a number of Mission Impossible-style raids on businesses across Scotland.

Ovidiu Dinu and Gabriel Fratila, both 32, carried out the audacious crimes by breaking in through shop roofs and cutting open safes.

On one occasion they lowered themselves into a Forres garden centre before making off with cheque books.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard how the pair hit retail businesses in Elgin, Forres, Edinburgh and Glenrothes, Forres in 2020 – making off with thousands of pounds in loot and causing tens of thousands of pounds of damage to buildings.

The two men were caught when DNA evidence linked them to a bottle of Coca-Cola left at the scene of one of their break-ins.

Fratila pleaded guilty to four charges, which included attempting to break into a Matalan store in Elgin and a successful burglary at a Poundstretcher in Glenrothes, where he stole more than £3,500.

He also admitted breaking through the roof of a Matalan store in Edinburgh to seize nearly £6,000.

Garden centre had been ‘ransacked’

Dinu admitted breaking into the Mackenzie and Cruickshank Garden Centre in Forres, where a number of charity tins were nicked.

He also pleaded guilty to robbing a commercial premises in Elgin owned by Harbro, which netted more than £1,000.

Fiscal depute Colin Neilson told the court staff discovered the Forres garden centre heist when they came in to open up the following morning.

He said: “Upon going to disable the alarm the employee found it had been pulled from the wall.

“She and another colleague then checked the remainder of the building and found that the bakers and the office had been ransacked.

“It was discovered that the offices had been robbed and a hole had been cut in the side of the safe and its contents stolen.

“Due to Covid-19, the business had been promoting contactless or card payments and the safe contained only chequebooks and obsolete vouchers.”

Pair were identified through DNA at scene

The pair were identified by cops when their mobile phones were tracked to the locations and via DNA evidence left at the site – including blood on a piece of metal and a bottle of Coca-Cola left by Fratila at the Matalan site in Edinburgh.

Dinu and Fratila were apprehended by police while disembarking from a ferry at Port of Holyhead in Wales in September 2020.

Defence solicitor Gail Goodfellow said Dinu had come to the UK from Romania to “seek a better life” after a number of false starts as an air conditioning technician and a chef.

She claimed her client had merely acted as the “lookout” but accepted that his involvement made a prison sentence “inevitable” due to his previous convictions.

Liam McAllister, Fritila’s defence lawyer, said his client had come from Germany looking for a “fresh start” but had fallen into a life of crime.

He said the former painter and decorator “now realises he will be punished in the most serious of ways”.

‘No other appropriate sentence’

Sheriff Philip Mann told the two men “that these were very serious offences involving serious behaviour and break-ins to various premises”.

He added: “There is no sentence other than a custodial sentence that is appropriate as you both have criminal records for similar offending.”

Sheriff Mann sentenced Fratila to three years and two months in prison, while Dinu was handed two years and eight months behind bars for his involvement.

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