Dine-and-dash traveller lied about being pregnant to get bail

Ann McDonagh, 39 of Sandfields, Port Talbot and her husband Bernard McDonagh, 41
Ann McDonagh, 39 of Sandfields, Port Talbot and her husband Bernard McDonagh, 41 - South Wales Police/PA

A dine-and-dash fraudster from the traveller community lied about being pregnant to get bail before defrauding two more restaurants, a court has heard.

Ann McDonagh, 39, and her husband Bernard McDonagh, 41, have been jailed for racking up large bills for food and drink from four restaurants and one takeaway, before leaving without paying.

The couple, from Port Talbot in South Wales, ordered three-course meals for themselves and their family including T-bone steaks and desserts. They sent some back uneaten.

Swansea Crown Court heard the pair, who use more than 40 aliases and 18 dates of birth between them, accrued unpaid bills totalling £1,168.10 between last August and April this year.

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

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

Bernard and Ann McDonagh arrive at court in Swansea on May 8
Bernard and Ann McDonagh arrive at court in Swansea on May 8 - Dimitris Legakis/Athena Picture Agency

Prosecutor Alycia Carpanini told the court Ann McDonagh was arrested for separate offences – which were not proceeded with – on March 13 and taken to a custody suite for interview.

She 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.

The prosecutor told the court how, after she was released, the couple went to Isabella’s in Porthcawl on March 27 and ordered £196 of food and drink.

Ann McDonagh tried to pay with a card that was declined three times, and told staff she would go to a cashpoint and left a child at the restaurant.

Ann McDonagh at Bella Ciao in Swansea at the till with a boy
Ann McDonagh at Bella Ciao in Swansea at the till with a boy - WALES NEWS SERVICE

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 tried to stop the boy leaving, but he ran away. Footage of the dine and dash went viral on social media.

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.

Pure and utter greed

Judge Paul Thomas sentenced Ann McDonagh to 12 months in prison and Bernard McDonagh to eight months, telling them their actions were 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.”

The judge told them 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.”

‘Fuel and reinforce’ negative stereotypes

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

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”.