Young people are being targeted to become money mules to open bank accounts for the proceeds of crime, a judge said, as a 19-year-old admitted being paid €100 for almost €10,000 to land in his account.
Ange Munane of Castlepark, Ballincollig, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to a money-laundering offence whereby he allowed his account to have criminally acquired money transferred to him by a person unknown.
Sergeant Gearóid Davis said: “In April 2021, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau began investigating reports of ‘smishing’ fraud offences reported by AIB.
“Customers of AIB were being sent text messages with a website link in the text. The customer would click on the link and be brought to what appeared to be the AIB website and asked to sign in.
“The AIB customer provided their online banking login information thus inadvertently giving over control of their accounts to unknown persons.
“These unknown persons then made unauthorised transfers of money from the AIB customer’s accounts to other bank accounts.
“These other accounts are known as money muling accounts. The fraudsters get young people to let them use their accounts for €50 of €100 payments. One such young person who allowed his account to be used in this way by fraudsters is Ange Munene.
“On January 12, 2021, two separate lodgements of €50 were made to his account through an ATM on the Naas Road in Dublin.
“The following day three further lodgements were made, for €4,100, €4,500 and €1.200, totalling €9,800.
“AIB was able to freeze his account so the money could not be moved or withdrawn from the account and conducted a reverse deposit which returned the full amount of €9,800 to the rightful owner.”
Frank Buttimer, solicitor, said the defendant was targeted like other young people who seemed to regard it as ‘easy money’ to get €50 of €100 for someone else to use their account for a short period. He said the defendant accepted he was reckless.
Judge Mary Dorgan said: “It seems that younger people are being targeted. This young man received payments of €50. This case merits a prison sentence. I want to see if there is a way I can deal with it otherwise.”
The judge adjourned sentencing until March 14, 2024, to allow time for a probation report.