A WEST Cork man who reported to Gardaí in Bandon that he had been the victim of fraud after he opened up an account on a dating site, unwittingly lead to the arrest of a man in Cork city on charges of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing.
The bizarre train of events were outlined at Bandon District Court last week where the 32-year-old Cork city man pleaded guilty to four charges under the Money Laundering and Terrorism Finance Act.
The court heard that the Cork city resident gave €19,000 to a person that he met on ‘Plenty of Fish’ online dating site and ended up being charged with money laundering offences after his bank details were subsequently used to scam a man in a similar fraud offence.
Sgt Paul Kelly told the court that the situation came to light after a man in the West Cork area reported to gardaí in Bandon that he was the victim of fraud after he opened up an account on ‘Plenty of Fish.’
‘He (the West Cork man) began communicating with an unknown person who later told him her name was Mary McCarthy and she said she needed money for various things and that she would repay him,’ said Sgt Kelly.
On March 3rd 2019 he transferred €900 to an account provided by this person followed by €800 to the same account on March 19th, €200 on March 21st and finally €50 on April 4th.
Gda Brian Blake began investigating this man’s allegations and made enquiries to AIB Bank as to whose account the money had been transferred into and he was able to see the West Cork man’s money going from the Cork city resident’s bank account.
On June 5th last year, the defendant [the Cork resident] was arrested at his home in Cork city and was brought to Bandon Garda Station and during the course of the interview he claimed he was also the victim of fraud.
‘He had given this person purporting to be Mary McCarthy his bank details, who then used it to con this other man [the West Cork man] out of money. The defendant agreed it was a negligent thing to do and it would appear that he himself was the victim of a similar fraud transaction.
Defence solicitor Myra Dinneen said that back in November 2017, her client, who has no previous convictions went on ‘Plenty of Fish’ and got chatting to this person who said she was from Castlebar but was in America trying to sort out affairs there.
‘She said she couldn’t get clearance on a cheque as she wasn’t a resident there and that she needed money. So over a two year period he paid her €19,000 of his own funds. He even paid for her flights to Ireland and he gave up college too,’ said Ms Dinneen.
‘He was completely taken in by this person and it’s romance fraud. It sounds incredible but he was so enthralled by her that he even took out a loan so he could pay her.’
The court heard the defendant never met the person or even spoke to her on the phone and all communication was by WhatsApp.
Giving evidence, the defendant said he was very embarrassed about what happened and just wanted to clear his name as he wasn’t part of this romance scam.
‘This person was very clever and it was an attraction initially and then I fell in love with her and it then snowballed from there.’
Judge James McNulty remarked that it sounded a bit odd that the man fell in love with someone he had never met. The defendant said it was more of a ‘bond’ than anything and the person worded things very cleverly and admitted he had no idea if the fraudster was a man or a woman or where they lived.
Judge McNulty told him he should get out more as he has a nice manner on him and there was no need for him ‘to be hiding in the attic.’
‘This man was more sinned against than sinned and it was a devious betrayal of his kind nature and he fell for her hook, line and sinker,’ said Judge McNulty.
He dismissed the charges under the Probation Act and directed that the defendant’s name or that of the other injured party not be published.