A brazen thief enjoyed free whisky tasters across Speyside before helping himself to bottles of malt worth almost £9,000.
Alexandru Iovanescu was caught on camera making off with the expensive malts as he visited distilleries and whisky shops in Tomintoul, Dufftown and Aberlour.
Elgin Sheriff Court heard how he stashed bottles, all valued between £400 and £2,000 each, into jacket pockets and even down his trousers on January 28 last year.
The 27-year-old distracted staff by asking for tasters or tours before stealing the pricey spirits straight from the shelves or by leaving an empty box behind.
In one case Iovanescu purchased one miniature bottle from the shop before walking out without paying for a full-size one worth £899.
Fiscal depute Karen Poke told the court that less than half of the whisky stolen has been recovered.
She said some of the businesses targeted only realised bottles had been taken after an appeal was posted online by the owner of the Whisky Castle and Highland Market in Tomintoul.
Raided shops in space of afternoon
In that instance, Iovanescu distracted staff while chatting about his Romanian origins then paid for one whisky miniature before leaving with a Balvenie single malt worth £899.
That online appeal led to the Cardhu Distillery in Aberlour realised it was missing a Linkwood limited release bottle of 37-year-old single malt, worth £600, and an unaged Cragganmore Single Malt, worth £400.
Iovanescu had taken that at around 2.50pm having enjoyed a free taster and being left to browse unsupervised.
An hour later, Iovanescu made off with a Glenfarclas 39-year-old single malt worth £2,000 from the Whisky Shop in Dufftown.
The shop’s CCTV showed him taking the bottle and concealing it in his jacket while leaving the sleeve on the shelf while the shop assistant was busy on the phone.
Staff there discovered it missing during a stock check the next day.
He also took an unvalued amount of whisky, including a 25-year-old Balvenie DoubleWood, a Balvenie Tun and a 69-year-old Glenfiddich single malt from the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown.
Hid bottles down trousers
CCTV footage revealed him hiding bottles down his trousers.
His haul totalled £8,699 and only £4,800 has been recovered by police.
Defence agent Robert Cruickshank told the court that the amount of whisky stolen was “quite remarkable” and that the crime was “out of character” for the first offender.
He added he was “tempted” by another to head north from Cornwall to commit the spree. He lost his job once caught but is now working full-time again.
“He has owned up to his part in it,” he added.
Iovanescu originally denied the thefts when he first appeared in the Elgin dock in January last year.
Left court in good spirits
Today, though, he thanked the court and said: “Please accept my sincere apologies.”
Sheriff David Sutherland fined Iovanescu, of St Mary’s Road, Par, Cornwall, a total of £6,250 and ordered he pay each a total of £1,950 compensation to those he stole from.
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