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A member of an organised criminal group involved in an operation to steal luxury cars all over the country has been jailed for three years at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

The intricately planned but quite simple scam saw parties, including 30-year-old Toe Sava, of no fixed address in Ireland, checking out cars advertised on DoneDeal, distracting the owner, switching the spare key and returning later to drive away in cars, such as a Mercedes, without paying anything.

Detective Garda John Murphy outlined this modus operandi used by the gang at various locations, including Killarney, Co Kerry, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, Tipperary town, Dundalk, Co Louth, and Conna, Co Cork, on different dates in March and April last year.

Toe Sava had a previous conviction from Hertfordshire for the aggravated taking of a vehicle in December 2019.

Defence senior counsel Ray Boland said the accused man’s mother was sick and Mr Sava borrowed €5,000 to send home to her. “This person got him to pay it off by involvement in this,” Mr Boland said.

The senior counsel added: “Obviously, it is a very serious offence and there was some sophistication to it but three of the five vehicles were recovered.

“He had to borrow money from unsavoury characters who asked him to carry out these offences,” Mr Boland said.

Judge Colin Daly noted the cars were valued up to €12,000, €15,000, €33,000, €35,000 and €55,000.

The judge said the impact these thefts and attempted thefts would have had on the owners was an aggravating factor to be taken into consideration.

“This was part of organised criminal activity with a high level of deliberateness, planning and targeting,” Judge Daly said.

The judge imposed a sentence of four years and six months with the last 18 months suspended. A condition of the suspension of that period requires Sava to leave Ireland within 72 hours of his release from prison after serving the three years and staying away for at least 10 years.

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