lens a few bob Jailed photographer led a secret life as ‘front’ for €15m international fraud gang
Utility bill on bank accounts led to conviction
July 23 2021 03:00 AM
A 46-YEAR-OLD Italian national who was jailed this week for three-and-a-half years for opening seven bank accounts for a major international fraud gang is suspected of recruiting 13 other Italians to carry out similar crimes, garda investigations have established.
Giuseppe Diviccaro was previously unknown to gardaí and lived a quiet life occasionally working as a photographer from his Glasnevin home before he became the focus of a major investigation by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB).
The garda investigation which started last year when a Dutch company, which was victim to an invoice redirect fraud, established that emails received by the company were sent from an IP address in Ireland.
Gardaí were able to identify a suspect in relation to the sending of those emails and this person was found to be connected to a large number of individuals and bank accounts, including accounts held by Diviccaro.
The link between all of these individuals was that the same utility bill was being used to open the accounts, which was how Diviccaro was identified.
An examination of the accounts opened by Diviccaro showed they were used for receiving money from invoice redirect frauds.
Diviccaro is originally from the northern Italian city of Trieste and detectives believe that during 2018 and 2019, he organised for 13 of his criminal associates from that city to come to Ireland to open bank accounts for the international gang who are suspected of stealing €15m in invoice redirect frauds and laundering €13.5m in Irish bank accounts.
“Within the hierarchal structure of the money laundering gang, Diviccaro is classified as being a herder as well as being a money mule himself,” a senior source explained.
“Herders are involved in the recruitment of money mules and are also involved in cashing out money for the gang from the bank accounts which the mules allow be used, but in Diviccaro’s case he had an even more senior role as he had direct contact with the ‘managers’ and ‘directors’ of the gang.”
Managers are in charge of the herders and make more money than them while the directors are in charge of the managers and are the main organisers.
The GNECB estimate that of the €13.5m laundered by the gang in Irish bank accounts, they have managed to get away with almost €8m before the accounts had been frozen after garda and bank investigations.
Officers have set up Operation Skein to tackle the gang and so far over 300 suspects – the majority being money mules – have been identified all across Ireland.
In Diviccaro’s case, Detective Garda Angela Gavin told Dublin Circuit Court on Wednesday that a total of €200,019 was lodged into all of the accounts opened by the accused. She said €138,573 was subsequently transferred out of those accounts, meaning around 70pc of the money coming in was going out “very quickly”.
During a search of his address, gardaí seized €9,750 in cash which they were satisfied came primarily from money withdrawn from one of the accounts. They also seized a mobile phone which contained photos of the ID cards of other persons of interest.
Det Gda Gavin agreed that the “business model” was that these accounts were opened, used, were very quickly frozen and then became redundant.
Diviccaro pleaded guilty to knowingly contributing to the activities of a criminal organisation within the State on dates between June 21, 2018 and July 17, 2020.
He also pleaded guilty to offences of money laundering within the State on dates between June 22, 2018 and April 6, 2019.
Judge Melanie Greally said Diviccaro was “the front man” for opening accounts into which fraudulently obtained funds were being channelled and then immediately transferred outside the jurisdiction.
She sentenced Diviccaro to five years imprisonment, but suspended the final 18 months on conditions including that he leave the jurisdiction within 14 days of his release and not return for 15 years.
Diviccarro’s conviction was welcomed by the Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan, the senior officer who led the investigation and who first formed the view that the Italian was part of an “international criminal organisation” who had been laundering the proceeds of fraud through accounts in Ireland.
“Gardai are working with Dutch police and other police forces in Europol and Eurojust to tackle crime organisations like this,” Det Supt Cryan told the Herald.
“This is a great example of how international police forces work together to tackle international cyber-enabled fraud.
“International borders are no protection for criminals who operate in one country and commit crime in another.”