Banks and schools need to do more to raise awareness amongst young people of the dangers of acting as money mules for criminals, a judge has said.
Judge Melanie Greally made her comments at the sentence hearing of a young man who allowed his bank account to be used to hold the proceeds of crime.
Daniel Flanagan (21) had just sat his applied Leaving Cert exam in 2018 when he agreed to give his bank card and details to a man he owed a “drug debt” to, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard on Thursday.
Garda Stephen Hughes said that in September 2018, gardaí began investigating a number of “Done Deal” scams which involved people paying cash for car parts but never receiving their purchases.
He said that a woman from a Galway-based business located car parts on the classifieds websites and contacted the seller. Once she had paid the €650 to the bank account provided, the seller became uncontactable.
John Berry BL, prosecuting, said that four other victims were given the same account and that “radio silence” followed once the money was paid over. The bank account was found to belong to Flanagan, of Barrons Hall Grove, Balbriggan.
The total value of the monies found in Flanagan's account was €2,120. Flanagan pleaded guilty to recklessly holding the proceeds of crime on dates in September 2018, contrary to the Money Laundering Act 2010.
Anna Bazarchina BL, defending, told the court that her client was completing his applied Leaving Cert exams when he was arrested. He told gardaí that he owed a drug debt to someone and gave his bank details to this person.
Flanagan said he was instructed to withdraw cash from an ATM up to four times and he only then became suspicious that the money might be the proceeds of crime, counsel told the court.
Ms Bazarchina said Flanagan was immature and susceptible to influence from others and was reckless as to where the monies had come from. It isn't alleged that Flanagan carried out the Done Deal deceptions, the court heard.
Judge Greally said this was the latest in a succession of cases where teenage boys have allowed their bank accounts to be used for the receipt of illicit, illegally obtained money.
She said while there is already an awareness campaign in place, she said that “schools and colleges and banks themselves should be doing an awful lot more to highlight the lasting and far reaching consequences” of allowing your bank account to be used in this way.
“Even if you don't go to jail, you are going to have a very serious blot on your record. More needs to be done in spreading the message.”
She said that providing a bank account is very valuable from the point of view of criminals.
She adjourned sentencing to February 2022 to give Flanagan time to make some effort to gather money together to pay back the victims.