SOUTHAMPTON-BASED fraudsters have been sentenced for their part in a £110k “cash claw” scam.

During a raid on a city-centre flat, police officers seized £17,000 in cash, fake plastic bank cards and strips of metal used to force open cash machines.

It was part of a sting to take down fraudsters Maricel Boghian, 33 and Andrei Colac, 28, and Stefan-Andrei Baltaret, 18.

The trio who lived together on The Polygon, Southampton had been using a device known as a “cash claw” to steal money from machines across Hampshire and the south of England between February and April 2019.

The fraud works when a piece of metal is jammed into a cash machine.

When an unsuspecting person tries to take cash out the money gets trapped in the cash drawer.

The machine goes out of service and criminals then force open the drawer using a pair of pliers or a screwdriver to retrieve the money.

Specialist officers from the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit were able to track the fraudsters down.

They were sentenced to a combined 9.5 years in prison at Inner London Crown Court.

The trio pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and possession of an article for use in fraud.

The sentencing follows an investigation by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a specialist police unit sponsored by the banking industry that investigates criminal gangs responsible for fraud.

Detective Constable Andrew Jackson of the DCPCU, said: “These criminals thought they could get away with committing large-scale ATM fraud.

“This sentence should act as a deterrent to anyone thinking of committing similar offences.

“It shows that no-one is above the law.

“Those who commit fraud will be caught and punished.”

The Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) is fully sponsored by the cards and banking industries, with an on-going brief to investigate, target and, where appropriate, arrest and seek successful prosecution of offenders responsible for card, cheque and payment fraud crimes.

It is headed by a Detective Chief Inspector and comprises officers from the Metropolitan and City of London police forces who work with banking industry fraud investigators.

The DCPCU achieved estimated savings of £94.5 million from preventing and disrupting fraud in 2018.

It reports total savings of £600 million since the unit was set up n 2002