Valentin Radu (34), who was given a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence for money laundering, told the Sunday World he was screwed over by a childhood friend who asked him to withdraw money from the pal’s account after €743,000 was transferred into it through an email interception fraud.
He claimed to the Sunday World that he was not a member of an organised crime gang and insisted he just a naïve person who was taken advantage of by a friend.
“I’m stupid I cannot help [it],” he told us. “I have my fault anyway. I f***ed up, that’s it. I made a mistake and need to realise that.”
Radu, with an address at Warrenstown Place, Blanchardstown, Dublin, pleaded guilty to money laundering in relation to €1,500 which he withdrew from a friend’s account at AIB Clondalkin on November 11, 2020.
He claimed in court he withdrew the money from his friend’s account because he had a face mask and his friend did not.
Radu was not the account holder of this account but gardai believe he was in control of the account due to transactions such as tolls and mobile top-ups linked to him.
Radu told the Sunday World those things were coincidences and he did not have control of the account.
“I used his phone number when someone rings and speaks English. In case you can ring him and they’re going to talk in English. He was with me in the car when I used the card to pay the tolls,” he said.
In handing down a suspended sentence, Judge Martin Nolan said the State should have “taken its courage in its hands” in relation to charges against Radu and said he must infer gardai believe he was involved in the attempted theft of €743,000.
Radu said gardai believed he was part of an organised crime network operating in email fraud.
“They said from the start you are organised crime. I was working for €11 an hour when they arrested me!”
He said he got tied up in the crime through a friend from Romania who moved to Ireland and was living in Navan. He helped his friend get a job in a waste disposal firm in north Dublin.
Radu, who worked at the waste disposal firm, said he didn’t have his own bank account at the time as he didn’t have a passport, and claimed he had an arrangement with his friend to use his bank account to have his wages paid into.
He claimed that on the day of the money laundering offence his pal asked him to go into the bank in Clondalkin and withdraw €1,500 as he didn’t have a face mask.
Asked why he didn’t just let his friend borrow his face mask, he said: “It is my fault using his card. I should have said ‘here take my mask and go in’.”
The card was also used by Radu to make two further €250 withdrawals and an €89 purchase in a shop before it was frozen.
In court this week Garda Ciaran Ronan agreed with Luigi Rea BL, defending, that the other man has “gone” and has not been charged with anything.
Judge Nolan put it to Mr Rea that he must infer gardai believed Radu was involved in trying to steal more than €700,000.
Radu discovered after his friend had left the country that he had changed his address with his bank to Radu’s house in Blanchardstown.
“I realised when I received the f***ing letter to the house because it came to this address. He didn’t tell me that he put his address as here. He lived in Navan and opened a bank account there and then without letting me know he changed his address to my address. I got a bank statement and it said over €700,000 and [I] said how does he have this much money?” He said he tried to contact his friend after seeing the statement but couldn’t reach him.
Radu said gardai told him they had identified 16 people linked to the theft. Other than the €2,100 the rest of the money deposited into Radu’s friend’s account was recovered.
The same gang is believed to have been successful in withdrawing large sums from other accounts through similar frauds.
The fraudsters send an email to a business posing as another firm owed money by that business. They generally say they have changed their bank details and ask future payments be sent to that account but it is one linked to the fraudsters or a money mule working for them.