A LITHUANIAN national was jailed for five and a half years for his role in a military-style East European burglary gang which terrorised business owners across Munster.
Aurimas Petraska (32) was jailed as Judge Tom O’Donnell warned Limerick Circuit Criminal Court that law-abiding citizens and business operators must be protected from the behaviour of such professional burglary gangs.
“This is a very serious case,” he said.
“This was a professional job. This was premeditated and planned down to the last detail and executed with military precision.”
He said the business owners not only suffered the loss of their goods but also had substantial damage caused to their premises.
“These are not victim-less crimes,” he said, noting that the business owners have faced repair costs, higher insurance premiums and concerns over their personal safety and that of their staff.
Judge O’Donnell praised the dedication and tenacity of Gardai who worked for two years to identify and foil the East European gang who employed military-style techniques in their reign of terror across Cork, Tipperary and Limerick.
A Garda team under Detective Inspector Joe Moore co-ordinated with detectives across Munster and even drew on intelligence from Europol, Interpol and Baltic State police forces to track down the gang.
The gang used concrete-block laden cars as heavy battering rams to smash their way into pharmacies and boutiques in rural towns.
They even used black paint to darken the windscreens of the cars so no-one could be seen through the windows.
Gang members were clothed in military-style black overalls, had balaclavas, wore forehead-mounted flash lights and each had a large wristwatch to time the raid.
Every robbery was effectively ended once the gang had reached the six minute mark – thereby evading Gardai by leaving the scene well within the average Garda robbery response time.
Petraska of Church Street, Rathkeale, Co Limerick pleaded guilty to his role in three robberies which netted the gang €150,000.
Judge O’Donnell was told Petraska has previous convictions in his native Lithuania, Norway and the Netherlands.
Gardai believe the goods were shipped to Lithuania for sale on the black market across East Europe.