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cruel scam Fraudsters hacked email and nabbed €37K from couple building their home

The heartbreaking effects of the 'invoice re-direct' scam were laid bare in an emotional victim impact statement as two money mules faced court for their part in the cruel scam.

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Patrick Obijuru.

Patrick Obijuru.

Benedict Nkanga.

Benedict Nkanga.

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Patrick Obijuru.

A woman has told of her horror when she realised a €37,000 cash transfer to build her dream home had been stolen by fraudsters.

The heartbreaking effects of the 'invoice re-direct' scam were laid bare in an emotional victim impact statement as two money mules faced court for their part in the cruel scam.

College students Patrick Obijuru (23), of Killinarden, Tallaght and Benedict Nkanga (23), of Deerhaven Close, Clonee, Dublin had pleaded guilty to withdrawing part of the cash from their accounts which they had allowed to be used for the bogus transfer.

The mother-of-two said she and her husband had saved hard and didn't upgrade their cars for years to get enough cash together to build their dream home.

When the building work started after they had finally secured a mortgage, she said the "dream became reality".

As construction got underway, the contractor sought payment for work and materials via an email which was sent to an account as instructed.

A week later when the contractor asked again for the cash it was realised the money had in fact been transferred to an account controlled by the fraudsters.

The woman spoke of the "horror" and the "panic" when they realised how much money they had lost.

At Naas Circuit Court this week, investigating Garda Sergeant Fiona Butler explained how the construction firm had sent the original request, which was followed 14 minutes later by another request from the fraudsters.

Account

The second request, which appeared to be from the contractor, had told the woman to disregard the previous email and to use the account details supplied, according to Sgt Butler's evidence.

The woman, who had made the transfer, also said in her victim impact statement how she and her husband then spent days and weeks with banks and credit unions in an attempt to stop the transfer.

She said she felt ashamed and embarrassed and that it was her fault she had lost the money.

She also said she and husband were tortured by worries of being unable to complete their house and being left with "half-built walls in a field".

Dealing with the aftermath of the scam "put a serious strain on our relationship" and their children, aged five and two, at the time were "directly impacted" as well because of the fraud.

The woman said that because it was never established whose email account had been hacked by the fraudsters, they were left owing the money to the contractor.

While grateful to family and friends for their help, she said they are still angry over the burden of unnecessary debt.

Sgt Butler said gardai began an investigation shortly after the bogus transfer was reported to them in 2017 and found the money had been transferred to one account.

From there the cash was moved on to four other accounts, including one in the UK, and to the accounts owned by the accused men Nkanga and Obijuru.

They both pleaded guilty to theft and money- laundering charges.

In Nkanga's case, €5,000 was transferred, which he withdrew from the bank counter at AIB in Blanchardstown and from an ATM.

He said he had been approached by men at his college and asked if he wanted to make some money in return for allowing his account be used. He said he never got any money and what he withdrew was handed over to the men who had come to collect him from class to bring him to the bank.

Obijuru told gardai after his arrest he was promised an €800 drug debt he owed would be cancelled in return for the allowing his account be used by the fraudsters.

Both men expressed remorse and apologised through their counsel and offered to pay compensation of €5,000 each to the victims.

Judge Martina Baxter adjourned the cases to allow time for the money to be paid before sentencing.


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