Credit card fraudster is "no innocent abroad" says judge
A man has been jailed for his involvement in a well organised fraud operation which saw stolen credit cards used to spend nearly €20,000 in high street shops.
Ion Matei (37) and three accomplices used the American Express credit card to buy clothes, perfumes and handbags at Brown Thomas, Arnotts, Next and Debenhams throughout 2009.
The card was a company expenses card for Phillip Ryan, an employee of Oracle.
The fraudulent transactions began in late October, after American Express had issued a new card.
Mr Ryan later told investigating gardai, who had been contacted by suspicious staff at Brown Thomas, that he had last used his card in December 2008 for a work trip and had never received the new card.
Garda Wayne Donnelly told Fionnula O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that he compiled CCTV footage from a number of shops which showed four people repeatedly using the card. Two of these were identified and Matei was one of them.
He was arrested in February 2010 and denied knowing anything about the theft of the card but accepted he had used the card to buy goods. He said another man had given him the card and told him to buy items. Matei would hand these goods over and he would be paid a fee for carrying out the work.
Matei of Buckingham Street, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of a stolen credit card at various locations in Dublin between October 20 and November 3, 2009 and to 19 charges of stealing a total of €7,377 from the credit card account at shops in Dublin, Limerick and Cork.
He also admitted possession of a stolen Ulster bank credit card between April 9 and April 18, 2014 and to theft of €1,350 at an Ulster Bank ATM, College Green, Dublin on April 13 and 18, 2014.
Judge Desmond Hogan suspended the two years of a four year sentence on condition he keeps the peace for four years.
Detective Garda Des Rodgers said that in 2014 bank officials notified gardai in relation to €50,291 worth of unauthorised transactions on the Ulster bank card.
The owner of the card, Thomas Kennedy, told gardai he was working in Saudi Arabia since December 2013 and when he returned to his Dublin apartment he found the post box entirely empty. He suspected his post had been stolen and that the Ulster bank credit card had been stolen along with it.
Det Gda Rodgers said that 61 of the 89 transactions on the card were covered by CCTV footage and this showed a woman and three men, including Matei using the card to withdraw cash from ATMs and purchase electrical goods from Argus.
Most of the footage of Matei showed him using the stolen card to check the balance on the bank account early in the morning and late in the evening.
Matei had no previous convictions in Ireland but in September 2009 he was convicted in the UK in relation to theft of a parking meter.
Kathleen Leader BL, defending, said that her client, who has lived and worked in Ireland since 1999, was a middle man and a cog in the wheel of this operation.
Judge Hogan said these offences were as part of a well organised operation.
“He was part of a very well oiled machine. He’s no innocent abroad, no pun intended. This is a very skilful use of credit cards. He either had a PIN number or a signature.” he said.