Young people acting as money mules by allowing their bank accounts to be used for transatlantic money-laundering were warned by a circuit court judge of the risk of being jailed for their crimes.
Judge Helen Boyle said at Cork Circuit Criminal Court that young people increasingly were being approached through social media by international criminals and if they cooperated with these criminals they would be at risk.
“If they get involved they will be caught, they will be brought before the court and face a potential custodial sentence,” Judge Boyle said.
The judge made the comments during the sentencing hearing for a young man in Bandon, County Cork, who allowed his bank account to be used for the purpose of money-laundering.
Eliss Asemota of The Close, Wetherton, Bandon, pleaded guilty to possessing in his AIB account in Bandon on March 25 2020 the sum of €33,922 for the purpose of money-laundering, knowing that the money represented the proceeds of crime.
Judge Helen Boyle imposed a two-year sentence on the accused but suspended it, taking account of age, his plea of guilty and the fact that he was never in trouble before.
The defendant was only 20 years old at the time.
His barrister Sharon Brooks said, “He may be streetwise but not worldly wise.”
Detective Garda Peter Nolan investigated the crime and outlined the background to it at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
The €33,922 was received in his account by means of an electronic fund transfer from Romania on March 25 last year.
A Romanian bank later contacted the AIB in Bandon indicating that it had been a fraudulent transfer and they sought a recall of the funds. However, through a number of transactions of withdrawal and spending from the account, linked to activities in Dublin and Longford, the money was completely cleared out and nothing was recovered.
It was established that a timber production company in Bucharest had invoiced a client for the amount in question but that a criminal scam known as re-direction fraud saw the money diverted to the criminal’s account. Det. Garda Nolan said the company owing the money would have been contacted to say that the account into which they were paying had new details and that they should send it to this other account. In effect the company paying their bill were effectively sending the money to the criminal. This was then sent to the account in Bandon with a view to disguising its origins.
The detective said large companies could be susceptible to this sort of crime.
The defendant in the present case who is now aged 21 admitted being contacted through social media and agreeing to act as a money mule for the purpose of the transaction. He received €1,700 for allowing his account to be used to facilitate this activity.
That is the only money that was repaid by the defendant and efforts are now being made to have this returned to the timber company in Bucharest.
Ms Brooks BL said the young man was in poor financial circumstances at the time but was now working fulltime. She said he cooperated totally with the investigation and apologised sincerely for committing the crime.
"He has no previous convictions,” Ms Brooks said.