‘Useful idiot’ in fraud case didn’t spot that job was just too good to be true

June 7th, 2022 11:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

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A SOUTH African woman who gave her bank account details to a company she was placing ads for online, was told by a district court Judge that ‘red flags’ indicating fraud and criminality should have alerted her to what was happening.

Mariska Palm  (31) of 1 St Patrick’s Terrace, Kinsale appeared at Bandon District Court last week where she pleaded guilty to two charges under the Theft and Fraud Offences Act.

The court heard that on October 6th last Glen Carroll made a statement to gardaí in Cabra, Dublin saying that he had paid €500 for an iPhone 12 after seeing it advertised on Facebook Marketplace by a company, but he never received the phone. Another person, Vitali Cojuhari, reported to Coolock Garda Station that he had paid €1,680 after seeing similar ads online for two iPhones and had never received them. It later emerged that scammers had been behind these transactions and both individuals lost their money.

Gda Padraig Walsh told the court that the defendant wanted to work from home and saw an ad online looking for people to post daily ads selling mobile phones on Facebook Marketplace. She contacted them and agreed to work for them part-time.

‘However, shortly after they contacted her and asked her if she would agree to issue re-funds using her own personal bank account, as the person who usually did them was on maternity leave, where she would also receive a commission,’ said Gda Walsh.

‘Immediately sums of money entered her bank account on September 2nd last and she was given two bank accounts from the Philippines to where she was to issue the refunds.’

The court heard that when she later tried to pay for her groceries she found out her bank had frozen her bank account so she then went to Kinsale Garda Station about it.

Following investigations, Gda Walsh found that Glen Carroll had reported to Ulster Bank that he paid €500 for an iPhone 12 and did not receive it, while Vitali Cojuhari paid €1,680 for two phones, but never got them.

On October 24th last, Ms Palm made a caution statement to Gda Walsh and said she thought it was legitimate to use her own personal bank account.

‘They contacted me to forward €900 to a Philippine bank account and to forward €500 to another Philippines bank account. When my bank account was frozen, I was shocked and couldn’t believe it, and when I contacted the company they wiped the conversation,’ she said in her statement.

She said she thought she had been working for a genuine company and apologised that people lost their money.

Judge Roberts said he never heard of a company funnelling money through someone’s personal bank account.

‘It that doesn’t raise a flag of fraud and criminality, I don’t know what does,’ said Judge Roberts, who added that the ‘job was too good to be true’ and that she was an ‘useful idiot’ in the fraud.

Solicitor Tony Greenway said his client was pregnant and had been looking to work from home and said she, too, had been defrauded as she didn’t get paid for her work.

Judge Roberts said she had to have known something was up and should have done some research on the company.

‘She knew there was a whiff but covered her nose and she’s not as innocent as you wish to make her out to be. There were just too many red flags here and she should have stopped, but she didn’t.’

Judge Roberts said the facts were proven and handed her a conditional discharge for one year, while recognisance for an appeal was fixed in her bond of €250.

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