A TEAM of travelling cashpoint conmen were caught with thousands of pounds as they headed away from the North-East after their latest scam.

Police stopped a Volkswagen Golf on the southbound A19 near Billingham after it was linked to a series of attacks on ATMs across Teesside.

Over six weeks, there were "regular and repeated" visits to machines at banks and Post Offices in Middlesbrough, Stockton and Guisborough.

Prosecutor Paul Cleasby told Teesside Crown Court today (Monday) that the Romanian thieves used "cash trap devices" to stop notes being dispensed.

Customers would walk away thinking the machine was either faulty or out of money, and the scammers would later return and collect the cash.

Kieran Rainey, mitigating, described the devices as "a bit of bent ruler and some strong adhesive" as he spoke on behalf of Dumitru Pufulette.

He said Pufulette arrived in the UK with savings in the hope of getting work to send money home to his ill mother, but was introduced to the scam.

Pufulette, 27, of Oldham Road, Manchester, admitted ten charges of theft, and was given a 12-month prison sentence by Judge George Moorhouse.

But because he has spent almost seven months behind bars on remand since his arrest last autumn, he was told he will walk free immediately.

"He will be coming out of prison today," said Mr Rainey. "He knows it is going to be hard, but assures the court he will not offend like this again.

"He realises now how foolish that was, and he should have tried harder to secure work. He says he will not go back to this sort of offending."

Mr Rainey said Pufulette was not responsible for the £3,400 found in the car, driven by friend Costel Lupu, and further money stuffed in a suitcase.

Lupu, 25, of Greenhill Terrace, Oldham, Greater Manchester, who also admitted ten counts of theft, will be sentenced next week.