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Wicklow teen allegedly laundered money for criminal gang after being approached on social media

The teenager said she didn’t know what she was doing was illegal.

Image: Shutterstock/Big blue

FRAUD SQUAD GARDAÍ in Dublin have been made aware of a new case of attempted money laundering after a teenage girl from east Wicklow was tricked into allegedly washing money for a criminal gang. 

TheJournal.ie has learned that the teen was befriended by someone who appeared to be her own age on Facebook. They struck up a friendship and decided to meet. From there the girl was brought to a number of different places and signed up for accounts in different banks.

The teen was then handed thousands of euro worth of cash and was told to deposit it in tranches to all the separate bank accounts which had been set up since the initial meet-up. From there, she was ordered to go to different ATMs to recoup the cash and return it to the launderers. The teenager was allegedly paid a small percentage of the cash she was told to launder. 

When one teller became suspicious the plan was uncovered. The bank worker who dealt with the initial cash deposit noticed the minor walking to the ATM located inside the same branch and withdrawing a large amount of money. 

The bank manager was informed and asked the girl to contact her parents. It later emerged that the girl had met up with her Facebook acquaintance a number of times. Gardaí believe around €15,000 had gone through multiple accounts before she was spotted.

Gardaí have, in recent months, noticed an increase in the number of young people being duped into carrying out this laundering. The majority, according to sources in the financial sector, don’t even realise what they are doing is illegal. 

Earlier this month, it emerged that gardaí conducted an operation alongside colleagues in Europol over the past three months, and have identified 420 accounts in Ireland being used as “money mules” where criminals launder their money. 

In the operation conducted in Ireland since September, the 420 accounts identified had allowed €14.6 million to pass through them in the past two to three years.

Herders

During the three-month operation, gardaí also identified five ‘herders’ operating in Ireland. The herders are responsible for recruiting the ‘money mules’, and go onto student campuses and use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to recruit people. 

Gardaí have found that the so-called money mules they’ve discovered can be either complicit or unwitting participants in the money laundering, and Detective Superintendent Gerard Walsh warned that people found guilty of money laundering can face up to 14 years in jail.

The advice from gardaí is: if you have received money into your account that you suspect to be from a criminal network, report it immediately. 

With reporting by Sean Murray

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