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Convicted on-the-dole mum who had €81k bank transfer says: 'They made a mule out of me'

Mum Tracey O’Brien (30) says she did not know money was the proceeds of fraud – vowing ‘I’m 100 per cent an honest person’

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Account: ‘It was a holiday thing, a friend, someone I though I could trust’

Account: ‘It was a holiday thing, a friend, someone I though I could trust’

Account: ‘It was a holiday thing, a friend, someone I though I could trust’

AN UNEMPLOYED mum convicted of a money-laundering offence after her bank account was used to receive a fraudulent €81,000 cash transfer, insisted this week she had been duped by those behind the scam.

Tracey O’Brien (30) insisted to the Sunday World this week she had not known the money was the proceeds of a fraud.

She claimed she had handed her account details over to a friend while on holidays in Turkey, as the man was travelling to Ireland and didn’t want to carry cash on him.

“I’m 100 per cent an honest person,” O’Brien told our reporter.

“It was a holiday thing. This was a friend, someone I thought I could trust.

“It was a Turkish person.

“And it was meant to be €8,000 going into my account, not €80,000.

“He said he was coming to Dublin and he didn’t want to travel with the cash, so he asked if he could lodge the €8,000 in my account and I said: ‘Yeah’.

“I was to go into the bank and withdraw the money and then give it to this person.”

reckless

Earlier this week, O’Brien admitted in court to “concealing the nature and source” of the €81,000 lodgement and “being reckless” as to whether the cash was the proceeds of “criminal conduct”.

Detective Garda Elaine O’Keefe said the defendant presented at the Newcastlewest branch of Bank of Ireland on September 29, 2017 and asked to withdraw €80,000 in cash, which had been lodged in her account two days earlier.

Because of the amount of money being requested, the matter was referred to a supervisor who established O’Brien’s account had been overdrawn by €14.30 prior to the €81,000 being transferred from an account in Germany.

Detective Garda O’Keefe told lawyer Lily Buckley, instructed by State solicitor Aidan Judge, that further suspicions arose as bank staff were aware the defendant was unemployed.

When asked about the cash, Ms O’Brien said it had “come from an aunt in Germany” and she asked if she could withdraw €20,000 instead to buy a car.

No money was released and further inquiries were carried out in relation to the transaction.

It was subsequently established the money was obtained fraudulently from a doctor in Germany before being transferred into O’Brien’s account.

The defendant later told bank officials she was to be paid €200 to facilitate the €80,000 being lodged.

However, when questioned by gardai in November 2018, she gave a “new version of events”, indicating she had been approached by a Turkish person she met on holidays.

Detective Garda O’Keefe said gardai believe the original fraud is “linked to a west Limerick village” but that they have been unable to identify those behind the transfer.

“She was used, but she knows a lot more than she is telling us,” she told Ms Buckley.

Defence lawyer Lorcan Connolly said his client “has very little money” and was duped and used by others.

“It was folly, it was not intentional criminality,” he said, asking the court to note her previous good record and her co-operation.

Imposing sentence, Judge Tom O’Donnell said he was concerned that “nobody believes” the version of events put forward by Ms O’Brien. “She was a willing participant in this enterprise,” he commented.

He imposed an 18-month prison sentence which he suspended in full.

Speaking with the Sunday World O’Brien said: “I was taken advantage of, big time.

“I was to get €200 and now I’m the one with the conviction. When I went into the bank, I just wanted it out of my account. I just wanted to get rid of it.

“I told the bank to shut down my account. I told the gardai all of this.

“My name has been blackened, it’s been ruined.”

Asked if she would issue any warning to other people who had been asked to facilitate bank transfers, O’Brien said: “Yes, I’d say trust your pocket.

“Don’t trust no-one when it comes to money. I’d never heard of anything like this before.

“To be honest, when I told the gardai how this happened, I didn’t think I was going to be charged. But I did break the law, the law was broken.

“I shut down my account and whoever lost the money got the money back, so I thought that would be the end of it. At least it’s over and done with now – I just hope that’s the end of it.”

Last month, gardai issued a warning to younger members of the Irish public to beware of becoming a ‘money mule’ for organised crime gangs.

Gardai warned that criminals are actively recruiting young people to help launder stolen or illegal money using their bank account – often unwittingly.

The chance to earn a ‘quick buck’ is a tactic used by fraudsters to recruit money mules, who are promised a share of the proceeds in exchange for their bank account details, the statement said.

A money mule is a person who transfers money illegally on behalf of other people. They allow their account to be used for the transfer of ill-gotten gains.

They may or may not be aware of the crime.

If you allow your account to be used, you are committing the offence of money laundering, which carries a penalty of up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

This will also have a serious impact on your future travel plans, career opportunities, vetting, and credit ratings.