Pensioner (76) lured into online scam avoids jail after €120,000 laundered through bank account
5 hrs ago
A pensioner received a six-month suspended prison term after a bid to supplement his pension resulted in him being lured into an internet scam where €120,000 was ‘laundered’ through his bank account.
James O’Rourke (76) pleaded guilty to two charges of money laundering over an elaborate fraud in which €120,000 passed through his bank account from firms in France and Sweden.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard the pensioner was “sucked into a Facebook friendship” with a woman based in the United States and then “unwisely” allowed his account to be apparently used as part of an email redirect scheme.
O’Rourke had only got involved in the activity to supplement his small pension.
The pensioner, with an address at Rosebrien, Newland’s Field, Graball Bay, Crosshaven, Co Cork, had fully co-operated with gardaí and pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering.
Detective Garda James O’Reilly said the pensioner had no previous convictions and entered guilty pleas at the earlier opportunity.
O’Rourke, who raised €1,500 in compensation, had suffered a financial loss from the entire affair.
Defence counsel Brian Leahy BL said his client inadvertently got involved in criminality because of his innocence surrounding such internet scams.
Det Gda O’Reilly said the sums of money lodged in the accounts of the pensioner consisted of €52,000 sent from Sweden to the defendant’s Bank of Ireland account in April 2020.
Two further sums of €29,000 and €40,000 were transferred from France to his Allied Irish Bank account.
Both Irish banks triggered concerns over the nature of the transactions and gardaí were immediately alerted.
O’Rourke was questioned by gardaí and acknowledged that he was the individual in full control of both bank accounts.
Further investigations revealed the €52,000 payment originated from a company in Sweden and the other sums came from a firm in France.
The two companies involved had fallen victim to “email redirect frauds”.
Police forces in Sweden and France were already investigating the matter on receipt of formal complaints.
The €52,000 from Sweden was transferred by an unknown party to a bank account in Lithuania not long after it appeared in the Irish bank account of O’Rourke.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin was told O’Rourke had withdrawn just €1,570 from the monies sent from France.
He had already been duped into investing €2,000 of his own funds into a programme to feed homeless people in Nigeria.
Mr Leahy said that his client had never been in trouble with the law before being duped into getting involved in this arrangement.
“He got involved in this scam via Facebook. He invested €2,000 in a programme to feed homeless people in Nigeria having been told he would treble his investment and get €6,000 back. He did this to supplement a meagre pension,” he said.
“He would not be hugely savvy with the Internet and he was sucked into a Facebook friendship. He believed there was easy money to be made.”
Judge Ó Donnabháin questioned how major alarm bells did not immediately sound for the pensioner over precisely what was going on.
“It would be alright for a 15-year-old to say something like that but your lad is 76 years old?”
Mr Leahy argued that individuals get caught up in such activities for a variety of reasons with the judge pointing out that “greed” was normally one of the main factors.
Mr Leahy stressed that his client had been “duped” into investing in a scheme and was promised that his investment would come to fruition.
He said his client deeply regretted having being duped into getting involved in the matter in the first place.
He stressed to the court that the entire matter had resulted in his client being at a financial loss.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said the decision by the pensioner to participate in such a scheme was “unwise”.
He added that it was hard by “anyone’s standard” to understand how “bells, whistles and flags” didn’t go off for O’Rourke that something was badly amiss when his bank accounts were being used to transfer such large sums.
“He ignored all this and unwisely allowed his account to be used. He had no benefit from but he facilitated the laundering. This is a salutary lesson for a man of this age who has no previous convictions,” the judge warned.
Judge Ó Donnabháin imposed a six-month suspended sentence and O’Rourke gave the court an undertaking to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
When asked outside the court what he would advise people who were thinking of getting involved in such activities, O’Rourke stressed: “Don’t.”