Longford man at centre of ‘money mule’ case sentenced

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Tipperary District Court

A father of three who agreed to be a 'money mule' by allowing his bank account to be used to fraudulently launder over €78,000 to a Nigerian associate in order to facilitate a tractor purchasing business in Co Longford, has been sentenced to 240 hours community service.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to money laundering at Ulster Bank, Main Street, Longford on May 16 2016.

The court was told the victim, made a statement to gardai over alleged suspicious activity relating to an €150,000 investment she had made with a Galway based financial firm.

During the following garda investigation, it was discovered a number of 'pressurised' emails had been sent to the investment firm purporting to be the victim in which demands were made for monies to be transferred from the victim's account.

One of those, Sgt Jimmy Cronolly confirmed, involved an email sent on April 27 2016 requesting €78, 250 be transferred to an Ulster Bank account which belonged to the accused.

It emerged however, that the email, which contained the victim's forged signature, was not prepared by the accused and instead was the work of an unidentified third party.

The court also heard how the accused man's bank account was frozen while enquiries continued.

During an interview with gardai at Longford Garda Station, the man admitted to consenting to allow his account be used by a friend by the name of Benecolo, who resided in London.

It was also revealed the friend the accused man he had last seen in 2006 was an accountant and a member of a Nigerian Ebo tribe.

Judge Keenan Johnson was told the victim had since been fully reimbursed but that almost €39,000 was still outstanding to Irish Life.

In defence, the court heard how the accused man had been 'susceptible' to becoming embroiled in the scam due to his dire financial circumstances.

Among them concerned details of how the accused had missed 39 monthly repayments on his mortgage and was now €25,000 in arrears.

In delivering sentence, Judge Johnson had been "naive in the extreme" to become involved in the incident and in so doing giving his consent to bring a "money mule".

He said there were clear lessons for financial institutions to be learned, stressing the importance of such organisations to refrain from relying solely on email communication and to follow that up by using a phone call for greater "authenticity" purposes.

Judge Johnson, in taking account of the 49 year old's early guilty plea and that he made no personal financial gain from the incident, sentenced him to 240 hours community service in lieu of a three year prison sentence.