'Greedy' dine and dash couple jailed after racking up huge food bills

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-Credit: (Image: South Wales Police)

Married fraudsters who accumulated large restaurant bills and absconded without making payment during a shocking 'dine and dash' spree have received prison sentences. Bernard McDonagh, 41, and Ann McDonagh, 39, were known to splash out on lavish three-course meals including T-bone steaks, for their family, often leaving food uneaten.

Swansea Crown Court heard that the duo, operating under more than 40 aliases and using 18 different dates of birth, deceitfully procured food and drinks from four restaurants and one take-away outlet, accruing unpaid bills totalling £1,168.10.

The pair pleaded guilty to five joint charges of fraud after images depicting their scam emerged online leading to their arrest. Ann McDonagh also confessed to four counts of shoplifting, inclusive of designer brand items from Tommy Hilfiger worth a total of £1,017.60.

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Judge Paul Thomas handed out a 12-month prison sentence for Ann McDonagh and an eight month sentence for Bernard McDonagh. He reprimanded them, suggesting their antics could have been driven by "pure and utter greed", reports the Manchester Evening News.

In his judgement he stated: "From the autumn of last year to spring of this year, you two set out on a deliberate course of sustained dishonesty."

Detailing their scam he said: "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."

The judge further criticised the use of children in the scam, describing it as "ruthlessly exploitative" and stating, "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."

He also expressed his belief that the thrill of the crime played a part: "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."

Highlighting the broader impact, the judge noted that such actions by members of the traveller community "fuel and reinforce" negative stereotypes.

Prosecutor Alycia Carpanini detailed an incident at the River House in Swansea, where Ann McDonagh and her family racked up a substantial bill. "They dined at the location and ordered a large amount of food," Ms Carpanini explained.

Describing the deceitful tactic used to evade payment, she 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."

However, the plan culminated in deception when "It was at this point the child asked to go to the toilet and ran from the restaurant. The total bill was £267.60."

Ms Carpanini also recounted a separate theft on September 6, when Ann McDonagh stole from a Tesco Extra store in Swansea, filling a trolley with goods worth £126.60 and attempting to leave 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 Bridgwater 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.

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 visited Isabella's in Porthcawl and racked up a bill of £196 for food and drink. Ann McDonagh's card was declined three times when she attempted to pay.

She assured staff she would withdraw cash from an ATM and left a child at the restaurant as assurance. However, the child fled the scene after 10 minutes, with the family spotted leaving in a white vehicle.

Fast forward to April 19, the couple, along with five others, dined at Bella Ciao in Swansea after making a reservation under the name Lucy Logan. Once again, Ann McDonagh's card was declined when she tried to settle the £329.10 bill.

She told staff she would get cash from an ATM and left a teenager at the restaurant as collateral.

Ms Carpanini narrated: "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 personal victim statement, Giovan Cangelosi, the owner of Bella Ciao, expressed his fear for the security of his restaurant after posting images and details of the fraud online. He described the impact of the theft, saying: "I felt like I had not protected my restaurant and had failed as an owner."

Giles Hayes, representing Bernard McDonagh, stated that his client had brought the money to court to repay it. He portrayed McDonagh, a father of six, as "deeply embarrassed and ashamed" by his actions.

Andrew Evans, who represented Ann McDonagh, suggested that she may have committed the frauds "to try to make herself feel better" following some family bereavements.

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