They were the gift cards that kept on giving. Three Romanians yesterday pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal after withdrawing more than HK$1.5 million using British gift cards that had banking information encoded into their magnetic strips. Construction workers Ionut Leonard Oancea, 30, Petrica Ghinea, 24, Alin Ciumpuliac, 22, pleaded guilty in the District Court to one joint count of conspiracy to steal. The court heard that the cards could be inserted into automatic teller machines to withdraw money and could be used repeatedly until the machines found a problem with them and retained them. After Ghinea's arrest, he told police the men had come to Hong Kong to celebrate Oancea's upcoming marriage and had paid in cash for a HK$3,500-a-night room each day. Ghinea said he had spent money on sex and to rent a place for sex, as well as a lot on nightclubs, where he had gone every night. The trio, with a fourth unknown person, made 1,100 attempts to withdraw money at six automatic teller machines at branches of Citibank, HSBC and DBS Bank and the Bank of Communication. On the 628 occasions when they were successful, they withdrew HK$1.56 million. If their remaining attempts had gone through, they would have taken HK$2.7 million. Most of the attempts were made from January 22 to 25 this year, the court heard. The trio were caught after security staff at DBS Bank noticed dubious activity at its Johnston Road, Wan Chai branch on January 25. Numerous withdrawal attempts had been made since January 22 using overseas bankcard data encoded into the magnetic strips of the British gift cards. The bank reported the matter to the police. The three were arrested after security camera images and records at DBS and HSBC showed they and the fourth person were behind the withdrawal attempts, the court heard. Police arrested them at King's Hotel in Wan Chai where they had checked in. Inside their hotel room, the officers found 29 gift cards and Hong Kong dollars and euros totalling HK$2.2 million. District Judge Garry Tallentire adjourned the case to November 17.