A pensioner was duped into an internet money-laundering scheme even though it effectively had "bells, whistles and flags attaching to it,” according to the sentencing judge.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said that despite the quite obvious dangers of getting involved in the scheme the 76-year-old Cork man went ahead and allowed two of his bank accounts to be used by others.
James O’Rourke of Rosebrien, Newland’s Field, Graball Bay, Crosshaven, County Cork, met an American woman through Facebook and went on to let his bank accounts be used for money-laundering where over €120,000 was sent through fraudulent means from Sweden and France.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of money-laundering arising out of this investigation.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said it had been a salutary lesson for the elderly man who had no previous convictions of any kind.
In all the circumstances he said that he would impose a six-month sentence which he would suspend on the accused being of good behaviour for 12 months.
Detective Garda James O’Reilly testified at Cork Circuit Criminal Court that the 76-year-old man had no previous convictions and signed pleas of guilty to these matters at an early stage.
The sums of money lodged in his accounts consisted of €52,000 sent from Sweden to the defendant’s Bank of Ireland account in April 2020.
Around this time two sums were sent from France to his Allied Irish Bank account, namely sums of just over €29,000 and €40,000.
Gardaí were alerted by the two banks and the defendant was questioned by gardaí. Mr O’Rourke said he was in full control of the two accounts in Cork.
On investigation it transpired that the €52,000 came from a company in Sweden and the other sums came from a company in France.
Det. Garda O’Reilly said both companies had been victims of “email re-direct fraud,” and complaints were made to the police authorities in those countries.
All of the money from Sweden was sent on to a Lithuanian bank account very soon after it landed in the defendant’s account in Cork.
In terms of any benefit he derived from the monies lodged in his accounts James O’Rourke had withdrawn €1,570 from the monies sent from France.
Defence barrister Brian Leahy said the defendant was fully cooperative during interview.
“He got involved in this scam via Facebook. He invested €2,000 in a programme to feed homeless people in Nigeria having been told he would treble his investment and get €6,000 back. He did this to supplement a meagre pension.
“He would not be hugely savvy with the internet and he was sucked into a Facebook friendship and believed there was easy money to be made,” the barrister said.
The judge remarked, “That would be alright for a 15-year-old to say something like that but your lad is 75 years old.”
Mr Leahy said someone could get caught up in something like this for a variety of reasons. Judge Ó Donnabháin said greed would be one reason.
Referring to the €1,500 benefit which the defendant derived from the money-laundering, Mr Leahy BL said the accused brought this money to court in compensation.
Asked afterwards about his advice for anyone who might be contemplating engaging in this kind of on-line activity, the pensioner’s advice was succinct when he said, “Don’t”.