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Erno Horvath

Erno Horvath Wiki

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A married couple fighting extradition to Hungary on allegations that they scammed retirees in a £ 3 million ‘grandparent’ fraud claiming they would face prejudice there because of their Roma ethnicity.

Erno Horvath, 41, and his wife Marina Horvath, 32, are accused of tricking older people into giving up cash by telling them that their relatives had been in a car accident.

It is said that 220 victims, aged between 70 and 96, were convinced that their loved ones needed help to pay for the damages or had been injured.

How Erno Horvath, 41 and his wife Marina  are accused

The couple were allegedly “on top” of a fraud ring, calling out retirees and hiring recruits to wait outside the victims’ homes and demand money after the conversation was over.

They are fighting extradition to Hungary, where they would face up to a decade behind bars if convicted of the alleged scam that took place between January and July 2019.

Fugitive Erno is charged with plotting the scam while he was wanted for four unrelated convictions. He had fled the Eastern European country and was sentenced in his absence.

The total amount of jail time he still has to serve is seven years and eight months, the Westminster Magistrates Court heard today.

Victims

A second married couple, Maria Lakatos, 41, and Csaba Nemeth, 42, are also wanted in Hungary for their alleged involvement in the scam.

Prosecutor Amanda Bostock said: ‘There is a large-scale conspiracy in Hungary that has been going on to defraud elderly victims. The Hungarian authorities call them grandchild scams.

‘These alleged persons and others from the UK come into contact with an older person. They are told that their relative, usually a grandchild, has been involved in a car accident and that they urgently need money to resolve an incident.

Who is second married couple, Maria Lakatos, 41, and Csaba Nemeth?

“In some cases, you will be injured if the money is not paid.”

“There are currently 220 victims between the ages of 70 and 96.

‘There is a hierarchy where these alleged people are said to be at the top in the sense that they make the phone calls, they recruit lower people who wait outside the property of the person who is contacted so that as soon as make the phone call, the money is collected, usually jewelry, before you have time to consult with your grandchild on the real situation.

“£ 500,000 has been taken from these victims, but several attempts have been made, so the total loss is much greater and the damage is significant.”

The court heard that Marina faces 12 counts of fraud and a £ 7,200 laundering charge, less charges than her spouse, who is accused of founding the ring.

The mother of three is currently out on bail, while her husband Erno, who is charged with 32 counts of fraud, is in custody.

Erno appeared on the dock today in a gray prison tracksuit while his wife sat in the court pit in a studded leather jacket.

Malcolm Hawkes, defending Erno Horvath, said hatred against Roma reaches the highest echelons of Hungarian society, including comments from Prime Minister Viktor Orban and ‘gossip from the judges … of’ dirty gypsies’.

The extradition of a suspect may be prohibited if the court determines that he could have been harmed at trial or punished on the basis of his race, religion, national origin, gender, sexuality and political opinions.

Mr Hawkes said: “People [in Hungary] are prejudiced on the basis of race … It is a reasonable possibility or a serious possibility that this prejudice will show up.

“We have a considerable and compelling body of evidence that quite egregious and shocking levels of discrimination that have persisted for many years persist even today, in all spheres of life.

“Despite this severe discrimination against Roma, that their children are” mentally retarded “, that half of Roma do not even have running water at home, but that the criminal justice system is an oasis of decorum where discrimination evaporates, I present that clearly not true.

“[There is] the closed-door judges’ gossip of ‘dirty gypsies’ dating and the whispers that continue, and the Hungarian Prime Minister’s comments encouraging discrimination, speaking of Roma.”

Graham Hall, who defends Marina Horvath, added that the couple could be forced to wait three years for their trial to begin due to delays in the Hungarian criminal justice system.

Hall argued that the mother was the “sole caregiver” of a young child and faced the prospect of being taken into custody once extradited.

He said: ‘From Ms Horvath’s perspective … [the same two issues] apply. Additional points being raised on behalf of Ms Horvath concern delay, both in pre-trial delay and the right to a trial within a reasonable period of time … There is endemic pre-trial delay and extensive [in Hungary]. .

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ibrarhussain

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