A judge has warned young people and students that they face being jailed if they allow the proceeds of criminal conduct to be laundered through their bank accounts.
Judge Martin Nolan was speaking during the sentence hearing of Arina Jersova, who was just 18 years old when €11,000 of criminal proceeds was transferred into her bank account.
Dublin Circuit Criminal court heard young people are being targeted by criminals through social media and asked to hold money in their account for a small rewards
Her defence counsel, Miska Hanahoe BL, told the court Jersova had been picked up at her school by the criminals who then drove her to three locations to withdraw the money. They held onto her bank card which was later found by gardaí investigating the men for money laundering.
Jersova, now aged 21, of Milners Square, Dublin 9, pleaded guilty to money laundering in relation to €11,098 at Bank of Ireland Main Street, Blanchardstown on April 9th, 2018.
Detective Garda Sean Sheehan told Diana Stuart BL, prosecuting, that gardaí investigating men involved in money laundering located Jersova's bank card during a search of one of the men's homes.
The men had been identifying and contacting young people via social media and asking them to hold money in their bank account for a small amount of money in return.
The court heard that a company had been defrauded of money, completely without the involvement of Jersova, but money was then lodged into her account and she was brought by the men to withdraw it. She did not benefit from the offence and co-operated fully with gardaí.
Ms Hanahoe said Jersova had been just 18 at the time, has no previous convictions and has been working ever since. She has saved €8,000 which she brought to court to be paid over to the company.
She said Jersova was very genuinely remorseful and unlikely to ever come before the courts again.
Judge Nolan said it seemed to be the situation in the last year or so that students were being asked to launder money for small rewards and that the young people were very valuable to criminals.
He said while from each student's point of view they were doing very little wrong and getting little rewards they were very useful to criminals and facilitating a lot of money laundering.
Judge Nolan said he did not believe in “sacrificial lambs” but warned that from today's date if parties come before him having gone out “tomorrow or the next day” and committed this offence he would strongly consider a custodial sentence.
“This is going to have to stop,” said Judge Nolan, “I don't want to make an example out of this lady, but the court will have to find a way to stop it. From this date I think custodial sentences will have to be considered to stop this behaviour.”
“You can go to jail for money laundering even on the first offence because you are very useful to people who commit serious criminal behaviour,” Judge Nolan warned, noting this offence had become more prevalent.
He told young people they were making it too easy for serious criminals to benefit from crime.
“This is going to have to stop,” repeated Judge Nolan, “If it takes a prison sentence for young people with good mitigation then so be it.”
He imposed a two year suspended sentence on Jersova but said “the day is coming when people go to jail for this type of behaviour because it has to stop.”