Plumber who groomed ‘girl’ for sex caught in undercover sting

A plumber has been jailed after being ambushed by an undercover police operation for trying to pick up a 13-year-old girl for sex.

Ionut Voicu sent a torrent of pornographic videos and photos of his genitals during a two-month online seduction of what he considered a naive schoolgirl.

He arranged a meeting with her near his home on the Devon Somerset border and police found him with condoms and cannabis which he said would “kill the shy” girl.

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In reality, he didn’t talk to any girl at all and had fallen for an undercover police child protection operation.

Officers found evidence on his phone of a brief exchange of messages with a 14-year-old girl, but were unable to trace her.

Voicu, 36, from Wellington, admitted to attempting to meet a child with the intent of committing a sexual offence, twice attempting sexual communication with a child and five times inducing a child to watch sexual activity.

He was originally released on a three-year Community warrant at the Taunton Crown Court, but the Attorney General appealed the verdict as it was too lenient.

The Court of Appeal increased the sentence to three years and four months of immediate detention while he was in Exeter Crown Court.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett of Maldon said a prison sentence was necessary because Voicu intended to have sex with an underage girl.

He said: “In our view, it is very clear that the defendant intended to have penetrative sex. There was grooming behavior and the offense involved sending her pornography.

“We are convinced that a prison sentence without a custodial sentence is completely inappropriate for this crime.”

Voicu, who was free pending the appeal, was not at the court. He was ordered to turn himself in to the police so that he could begin his sentence.

Prosecutor Joel Smith said Voicu started the exchange with a girl named Emily online in April 2020 and turned the conversation on sex.

He asked her to pull up her sweater and sent her pictures of his genitals, which he said were cheeky. He sent her 34 pornographic clips of adults having sex and asked which of the activities she wanted to participate in.

He made an appointment with her and offered to give her cannabis to help her relax and “kill the shy.” He was found with cannabis and two condoms when the police arrived at the rendezvous.

Ms Nikki Coombe, on the defensive, said Voicu’s posts made it clear that he was only interested in sex if the girl agreed and that it was therefore wrong to conclude that he was planning penetrative sex.

She said a probation report found him to be at low risk of reoffending and concluded that the public would be better protected if he took a sex offender treatment course.

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