An Irish court was unmoved by the claims of a taxi driver who had stolen money from drunk passengers that he had acted under duress and sentenced him to jail time.
Targeting Drunk Clients
Gareth Taggart, a 32-year-old taxi driver, received a 14-month sentence at Belfast Crown Court by Judge Richard Greene QC for his repeated actions against more than 50 passengers. Taggart committed the crimes over a period spanning from February 2018 to July 2019 when he was arrested.
Using the same modus operandi, Taggart targeted drunk taxi passengers who used their cards to pay their taxi fare by watching their PINs and failing to return the cards from the reader in the car.
After that, he used their PINs to withdraw cash from the customers’ bank accounts, repeating the process more than 60 times over a nearly 18-month period to net just under £26,800 ($35,000) from the fraud.
Following the multiple loss of bank cards, the police launched an investigation and found out that all of those who had lost their cards had been out in Belfast drinking and socializing. Eventually, investigators identified Taggart as a possible suspect, being the taxi driver in all cases of lost cards.
Arrested at one of the ATMs he had used to withdraw money from his victims’ bank accounts, Taggart was found in possession of four bank cards and £1,000 ($1,300) in cash.
Playing the Victim Card
Upon his arrest, Taggart claimed he had been pressured into committing the fraud after being indebted to a paramilitary group of loan sharks who had lent him money to cover his gambling debts. The loan sharks instructed him to carry out the fraud to pay off his debt to them.
But Judge Greene was unmoved even by the desperate attempt of Taggart’s defense barrister John O’Connor to portray his client as a victim, telling the court that his client, who has no criminal record, lost everything and still owes a substantial amount to the loan sharks.
Greene pointed to the large number of victims and asserted that Taggart acted willingly to take advantage of people who were vulnerable and intoxicated which made them easy prey and instead of taking them home safely, he chose to fleece them.
Greene sentenced Taggart to remain 7 months behind bars and another 7 months on probation following the release.
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