Romanian couple charged with handling stolen goods

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A man and woman who had almost 120 items of clothing still with labels attached, worth £1,100, in their Ballymena home claimed they were not stolen and instead were gifts to bring to family members in Romania whilst visiting on a holiday.

Remus Berchi (46), a meat factory worker, and Simona Nicoletta Rostas (31) - both of the same address at Toome Road - appeared side by side in the dock at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Both accused are charged with handling 118 items of stolen goods on September 13 this year.

Rostas alone faces four more charges - theft of a bra; theft of four pairs of trousers worth £45 from H&M Ballymena on the same date and the theft of a pair of shoes worth £45 from Marks & Spencer in April this year.

Defence solicitor Stewart Ballentine said the price tags were still on the clothes as that was the practice in the culture of the defendants to show the goods were not second hand.

Mr Ballentine said a September 24 flight had been booked months ago and he claimed the clothing, which was mostly for children, had been bought over a period of time.

Rostas wept in the dock as did family members in the public gallery.

A police officer told the court he believed he could connect both accused to the charges.

Police discovered the clothing after going to the Toome Road house after Rostas was allegedly caught stealing a £14 bra from Marks & Spencer and then the trousers were discovered.

He objected to bail saying 118 items of clothing worth £1,100 with price tags on were found during a follow-up search of their home and no receipts were produced.

With evidence of a flight to Romania having been booked the officer said there was a risk of further offending and a risk they could not return to the jurisdiction.

He said there was nothing to suggest the couple were part of a wider group.

Mr Ballentine meanwhile said it was clear from the distress in court the family was “devastated”.

He said the man and woman had £2,000 in cash in court for bail.

District Judge Peter King granted bail, each on the sum of £1,000, on the condition they reside at Toome Road and they are banned from Marks & Spencer in Ballymena and H&M in the town.

They also have to submit their travel documents to police.

The judge said he would adjourn the case to September 22 and the issue of the holiday trip can be looked at then.

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