Dublin woman posing as UN Diplomat scammed thousands from tourist

The scam took place at Dublin Airport
The scam took place at Dublin Airport

A woman who posed as a UN diplomat and took nearly €9,000 from a Japanese woman in Dublin airport after promising her access to a container filled with cash will be sentenced in June.

Agata Pracz (39) from Swords, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to dishonestly inducing Yumi Takekoshi to hand over €8,990 on July 15, 2014.

Garda Enda Ledwith told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today that Ms Takekoshi, a 58-year-old Tokyo woman, was contacted through social media site, LinkedIn, by a woman purporting to a be a "two-star US general" based in Dublin Airport.

The 'general' told Ms Takekoshi that a container filled with currency to the value of $10.5million (€6.8million) was at a bonded warehouse in Dublin and that she would give Ms Takekoshi access to it for the sum of €8,990.

As a result, Ms Takekoshi booked a flight and flew into Dublin airport on July 15, 2014, where she met a woman who claimed to be a UN diplomat named Sandra Daly.

"That woman was actually the accused," Gda Ledwith said.

Pracz took Ms Takekoshi to a bar in Dublin airport and took the money from her, before promising to call her with details of the container full of cash, the court heard.

However, Ms Takekoshi became suspicious after the meeting and took a taxi to the Japanese embassy, which contacted the gardai.

Pracz, a Polish national, was arrested on the M1 motorway some days after this incident after gardai recognised her car from Dublin airport CCTV footage.

She claimed she met a man named 'James' of Nigerian or Ghanaian background in a pub who organised the deal with Ms Takekoshi and she was just the "cash collector", Gda Ledwith said.

She said she got involved in the scam after she got into financial difficulties.

When police searched Pracz's home, they recovered just over €4,000 and a laptop, Gda Ledwith said. He said Pracz said she had tried to get in touch with James but couldn't so she spent the other half of the money on paying off her debts.

Garda experts were unable to hack into the laptop, which was heavily encrypted and Pracz told gardai she couldn't remember the password.

The court heard that Pracz has lived in Ireland since 2006 and has no previous convictions in the country. However, she has three convictions for fraud-related offences in Poland.

"She would be low level in relation to these charges," Gda Ledwith said, adding that Pracz had made no admissions in relation to any internet interactions between herself and Ms Takekoshi.

However, Judge Patrick McCartan said he had reservations about Pracz's version of events. He said he found it "difficult to believe" Pracz had met a man she didn't know in a pub and agreed to get involved in the scam.

"It doesn't happen as easily as that," he said, adding: "I find it difficult to believe what I'm hearing."

Judge McCartan said that he had come across similar frauds before in the courts and they were often sophisticated and needed careful planning.

"It's a scam that plays on the fact there are very selfish, greedy or needy and gullible people in the world," he said.

He adjourned the matter for sentencing on June 2.

Isabel Hayes