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Married couple jailed for ‘dine and dash’ offences

29 May 2024 5 minute read
Screen grab taken from PA Video of Ann and Bernard McDonagh arriving at Swansea Crown Court. Photo Claire Hayhurst/PA Wire

A married couple from Port Talbot, who committed serial “dine and dash” offences – racking up large bills for food and drink before leaving without paying – have been jailed.

Bernard McDonagh, 41, and Ann McDonagh, 39, both of Sandfields, ordered three-course meals for themselves and their family including T-bone steaks and desserts, with some being sent back uneaten.

Swansea Crown Court heard the pair, who use more than 40 aliases and 18 dates of birth between them, dishonestly obtained food and drink at four restaurants and one takeaway in the south Wales area, with the unpaid bills totalling £1,168.10.

The couple, who pleaded guilty to five joint charges of fraud, were arrested after images of their scam were posted on social media.

Shoplifting

Ann McDonagh also admitted four counts of shoplifting, including at designer store Tommy Hilfiger, taking items worth £1,017.60.

Judge Paul Thomas sentenced Ann McDonagh to 12 months in prison and Bernard McDonagh to eight months, telling them their actions could have been motivated by “pure and utter greed”.

He told them: “From the autumn of last year to spring of this year, you two set out on a deliberate course of sustained dishonesty.

“You would go to restaurants with your own family. You would have food and drink served to you to the value of hundreds of pounds and then you would cynically and brazenly leave without paying.

“You would order the most expensive items on the menu such as steaks in the full knowledge that you had no intention whatsoever of paying for them.”

‘Ruthlessly exploitative’

The judge said that using children to wait in the restaurants, who would then run off, while pretending to go to a cashpoint was “ruthlessly exploitative”.

He added: “You were not going to these places to feed you and your family, it was criminality for criminality’s sake – to see if you could get away with it.

“I have no doubt, apart from the greed element, you had got a buzz out of what you were able to get away with on a regular basis.”

The judge added that the behaviour of the family, from the traveller community, would “fuel and reinforce” negative stereotypes.

Prosecuting, Alycia Carpanini told the court how the couple went to the River House in Swansea with three children at 7pm on August 9 last year.

“They dined at the location and ordered a large amount of food,” Ms Carpanini said.

“Ann McDonagh attempted payment. She asked where the nearest cashpoint was. Ann McDonagh left a child in the restaurant to wait for her return and to pay.

“It was at this point the child asked to go to the toilet and ran from the restaurant. The total bill was £267.60.”

Tesco Extra

On September 6, Ann McDonagh went to a Tesco Extra store in Swansea and loaded a trolley with toiletries and alcohol worth £126.60 before pushing it through the self-service checkout without paying.

The family ordered a Chinese takeaway costing £99.40 from Golden Fortune in Port Talbot to their home address on January 31.

Ms Carpanini said the meal was handed over before the family closed the door on the delivery driver’s face and did not pay for it.

On February 3, Ann McDonagh stole six polo shirts and one pair of chinos worth £442 from the Tommy Hilfiger store at Bridgend Designer Outlet by hiding them in her gilet jacket.

She returned on February 17 and was seen breaking security tags off items before trying to conceal them, making off in a blue Ford Transit van – a motability vehicle – with £49 of goods.

On February 23, the couple and four children went to the La Casona restaurant in Skewen where they ordered three course meals with sides, worth £276.60, before leaving without paying.

Ann McDonagh shoplifted from Sainsburys in Bridgend on February 25, taking clothing and other items worth £400.

She was arrested for separate offences – which were not proceeded with – on March 13 and taken to Bridgwater custody suite for interview.

Pregnant

Ms Carpanini said: “The defendant told the custody sergeant that she was nine months pregnant. The on-duty medical officer instructed that she had to be released.

“She was bailed before interview. The Crown say the defendant was not pregnant on that occasion and lied.”

She later admitted a charge of obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty.

On March 27, the couple went to Isabella’s in Porthcawl and ordered £196 of food and drink. Ann McDonagh tried to pay with a card that was declined three times.

She told staff she would go to a cashpoint and left a child at the restaurant. They ran out 10 minutes later, with the family seen leaving in a white vehicle.

On April 19, the couple along with five others went to Bella Ciao in Swansea having pre-booked a table under the name Lucy Logan.

Ann McDonagh attempted to pay the £329.10 bill with a card that was declined, and told staff she would get money from a cashpoint – leaving a teenager there while she went.

Ms Carpanini said: “After five minutes, the boy received a phone call and said ‘oh no, really, I will be there now’. The owner attempted to stop the boy from leaving however he ran away.”

In a victim personal statement, Giovan Cangelosi, of Bella Ciao, told how he feared for the security of his restaurant after putting images and details of the fraud online.

Describing the impact of the theft, he said: “I felt like I had not protected my restaurant and had failed as an owner.”

Representing Bernard McDonagh, Giles Hayes said his client had brought the money with him to court in order to pay it back.

He described father-of-six McDonagh as “deeply embarrassed and ashamed” by his actions.

Andrew Evans, representing Ann McDonagh, said she had suffered family bereavements and may have carried out the frauds “to try to make herself feel better”.


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hdavies15
hdavies15
24 days ago

Judging by the shape on those two they need to cut down on the dining even while serving their sentences. Greed, gluttony and downright criminality. No doubt some well meaning eejit will want to justify their actions as there might be a trace of “deprivation” in their backgrounds.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
24 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Totally agree with you, they deserve nothing but bread and water for the duration of their prison sentences!

There is no way anyone could justify their actions, going by their appearances there isn’t a hint of deprivation.

The article says they are from the traveller community, I hope people don’t judge them as an example of all travellers. There are good and bad people everywhere.

Wrexham Jim
Wrexham Jim
24 days ago

A full DWP investigation into their benefit claims needs to happen asap

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