'Dine and dash' pair who left restaurants without paying bills worth £1,000 are jailed

A couple who left a number of restaurants in the South Wales area without paying bills totalling more than £1,000 have been jailed.

Ann McDonagh, 39, and Bernard McDonagh, 41, previously pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud.

Ann McDonagh also admitted four counts of theft and one count of obstructing or resisting a constable in the execution of duty.

The pair, from the Sandfields area of Port Talbot, were sentenced at Swansea Crown Court on Wednesday.

She was handed a 12-month prison sentence, while he was jailed for eight months.

Newly-opened restaurant Bella Ciao in Swansea alleged in a Facebook post that a family left the premises without paying their £329 bill.

The post was shared thousands of times on social media.

Several other restaurants in the South Wales area also posted about similar experiences, including River House and La Casona.

A previous court hearing heard the unpaid bills totalled £1,168.10 across five restaurants.

'Most expensive items on the menu'

Judge Paul Thomas KC said the defendants had "set out on a deliberate course of sustained dishonesty".

"You would cynically and brazenly leave without paying," he said.

"You would order the most expensive items on the menu such as steaks, even for your children who did not eat them, in the full knowledge that you had no intention of paying for them."

He said the pair had a "well-drilled and tested method for avoiding paying" and had exploited their children.

"You'd obviously coached them in advance to run away when you'd left them behind as some form of security," he said.

The judge described it as "criminality for criminality's sake".

"Apart from the greed element, you each got a buzz from what you were able to get away with."

He said the kind of losses the restaurants faced were "not easily absorbed" in the current climate.

He concluded that Ms McDonagh was "the leading figure in this spate of offending" and was "a fluent and practiced liar".

He referenced a claim she made to police that she was nine months pregnant, which led to her release from custody.

"You were, in fact, not pregnant at all," he said.

'Confused and upset'

Prosecuting, Alycia Carpanini outlined the method deployed by the defendants.

On one occasion, on 19 April, they attended Bella Ciao restaurant in Swansea.

Ann McDonagh's payment method was declined and she left to get cash, leaving her son at the restaurant before he left a short while later.

"The boy received a call and said words to the effect of 'Oh no, really? I'll be there now,'" Ms Carpanini said.

Giovan Cangelosi, owner of Bella Ciao, said in a victim personal statement read out in court that he felt "stupid, robbed and was really beating himself up" over the incident.

The business's Swansea branch had only been open a few weeks at the time and he said business had at that point been "slow and difficult".

"Our restaurant has always been a laid back, relaxing place for people to attend and I want that to stay the same," he added.

"We thought about spending more money on our security... but this comes at a great cost."

Mr Cangelosi said he was "confused and upset as to why they do this".

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'Fallen on their swords'

In mitigation, Giles Hayes said that the defendants had "fallen on their swords".

He said their house was "vandalised" in the period following the incident.

"[Bernard McDonagh] recognises his wrongdoing, he's remorseful and he's entered his guilty pleas at the first available opportunity to court," Mr Hayes added.

Defending Ann McDonagh, Andrew Evans suggested she may have committed the offences "in an effort to improve her mood".

But he argued that there was a "realistic prospect of rehabilitation in her case".

The court heard Bernard McDonagh had 27 previous convictions for 40 offences, while Ann McDonagh had 18 previous convictions for 36 offences.