An elderly Corkman who had over €26,000 stolen from him in an email fraud scam has told a court that he no longer has any faith in electronic financial transactions.
Sean McCarthy's dream of a holiday home in Co. Kerry suffered a major setback when the final of three stage payments to builders went into the wrong bank account after the invoice from the building firm was intercepted by scammers, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.
The court was sentencing two young men, one a college student, who were both used as money mules by the unknown person behind the scam.
Jack Ward (22) of Garrinch, Fethard, Tipperary, and Kelvin Kleinovis (21) of Mayeston Green, St Margarets Road, Finglas, Dublin, both pleaded guilty to recklessly handling the proceeds of crime, contrary to the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act 2010.
The court heard that in 2019, Mr McCarthy had hired Lauragh Construction, a reputable building firm in Kerry, which then sent invoices for the stage payments from email@example.com .
On April 10, 2019, an email invoice for €26,400 was replaced with one from lauraughconstructions@gmail. com and the bogus invoice provided the bank details for an account not belonging to the building firm.
Mr McCarthy paid the invoice using the bogus bank details and some time later his bank contacted him to tell him the transaction was fraudulent. He contacted gardaí and investigators tracked the bank account to Kleinovis.
Garda Shane McGrath told Katherine McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that bank records showed the €26,400 going into Kleinovis' account on April 10. On the same day Kleinovis went into a bank and transferred €9,700 into Jack Ward's account, as well as making an online transfer of €9,600 to the bank account of a third man, who is still before the court.
After his arrest Kleinovis told gardaí that he had “got in over his head at the time” and he “hadn't a breeze” what happened to the rest of the money.
Ward later told gardaí that he had provided his bank details to someone on Snapchat after he was told he would be paid a ten per cent cut of a transfer of €10,000. He said he was acting impulsively and knows now that his behaviour was stupid and immature.
Gda McGrath said neither man was suspected as having set up the bogus email or being behind the scam. He said there was evidence that other persons had access to the bank accounts at the time before the bank froze both accounts due to the suspicious activities.
The bank returned €16,580 to the victim, leaving him still out of pocket for €9,820.
In a victim impact statement Mr McCarthy said that he and his wife were aged in their 60s and were working on a dream to retire to their holiday home in Kenmare. He said the loss of the payment delayed the progress of the construction work considerably.
He said he and his wife had “learnt from our children about electronic technology and how to operate credit transfers” and were “just coming to grips with it” when they were targeted in the scam.
“We live in a rural area. We no longer have any faith in electronic transfer or shopping online for even the basic essentials,” he said.
Cathal McGreal BL, defending Ward, said his client was horrified that he had become involved in scamming the victim and he felt extremely remorseful.
He said this was another case of “reckless foolish people who allow themselves to be used as a medium” for criminal activity.
On Tuesday afternoon, Judge Melanie Greally suspended an eight-month prison term for Ward, noting that all the money that went into his account was returned after the bank froze the account. She said Ward was evidently very remorseful and was unlikely to reoffend.
Sentencing Kleinovis at a separate sitting, Judge Pauline Codd suspended a two-year prison term noting that he has expressed remorse and is now working and trying to pay back some of the stolen money.
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