THREE men took more than £15,000 worth of alcohol and other products in a series of raids on Tesco stores across Northern Ireland, the High Court heard today.
Brothers Cosmin Barbu (34) and Dumitru Barbu (29) were joined by their cousin Adrian Olteanu (34) in loading trolleys full of drink, covering them with towels and walking out without paying, a judge was told.
Tesco outlets in Lisburn, Newry and Banbridge were targeted between September 23 to 28.
A Crown lawyer revealed the total value of goods is expected to rise above £15,000 once final stock checks are completed.
"These three appear to have gone on a complete shoplifting spree over a period of six days," he said.
The three accused, all Romanian nationals, were said to have admitted their involvement in the thieving operation.
The men, all with an address at Mount Rochford Drive, Balbriggan, face charges of theft, attempted theft and handling stolen goods.
Further allegations of going equipped for theft are denied, with the defendants claiming the towels used to cover up the trolley-loads were taken from the stores.
According to the prosecution they stacked up on bottles of alcohol, left the stores and either loaded a nearby car or abandoned the trolleys if they were being watched.
The trio then returned to steal again during the spate of raids, it was claimed.
They were arrested after police stopped an Audi A4 car on the A1 near Lisburn. Large quantities of alcohol with security tags still attached was discovered in the boot.
"At this particular time, with much of the stocktaking having been carried out, I understand the total value of thefts from Testo is £15,097," the prosecutor added.
Defence counsel contended that it had not been a sophisticated operation.
"They simply used a towel to cover it and blatantly walked out of the stores," he said.
"It would seem that then they got away with it the first time they simply kept doing the same thing."
All three defendants were refused bail due to concerns they may flee or re-offend.