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Fraud

Dublin court jails security guard who acted as 'ghost broker' selling false insurance policies

The man advertised his service on Facebook and sold policies to people who could not get insurance or to those who wanted it cheaper than the quotes they received.

A SECURITY GUARD who acted as a “ghost broker” selling false insurance policies and no claims bonuses has been jailed for five years.

Egidijus Aleliunas (43) operated as a so-called ‘ghost broker’ from 2010 until 2017 by buying legitimate policies online using false information and forged no claims bonuses.

He advertised his service on Facebook and sold policies to people who could not get insurance or to those who wanted it cheaper than the quotes they received. Aleliunas charged a fee to these individuals, the vast majority of whom believed him to be a legitimate broker, the court heard.

Aleliunas of The Paddocks Way, Adamstown, Lucan, pleaded guilty to multiple counts including deception, possession of false documents, use of a false instrument and possessing and transferring the proceeds of criminal conduct over a seven-year period.

His wife, Anastasija Pavola (37), father-in-law Viaceslav Pavlov (68) and mother-in-law Natalja Pavlova (65) each pleaded guilty to engaging in the transfer of property that was the proceeds of crime between June and August 2017.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that these three entered guilty pleas on the basis of recklessness as they allowed their bank accounts to be used to transfer money to an investment company in Dubai. They had no involvement in the ‘ghost brokerage’ business.

Neither Aleliunas nor his three co-accused have any previous convictions.

Imposing sentence today Judge Martin Nolan said Aleliunas was a “serious and industrious man who found a way to make illicit money” by identifying a gap in the market. He said Aleliunas “manufactured” applications to the insurance companies which resulted in them offering insurance policies on a certain basis, which turned out to be false.

Imposing a custodial sentence of five years, Judge Nolan said Aleliunas is a “very competent man” who “can change and reform himself and be good member of society if he wants to”.

He handed Pavola, also of The Paddocks; Pavlov – of Earlsfort Road, Lucan; and Pavlova, of Abbeydale Gardens, Lucan, a suspended two-year sentence each.

Detective Sergeant John Casey of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau told Grainne O’Neill BL, prosecuting, that an investigation started in 2017 after Aviva noticed a number of no claims bonuses signed by the same person, referred to in court as ‘BC’. However, BC had only ever signed one such document, which was issued to Aleliunas in 2010.

Seven insurance companies including Allianz, First Ireland and Liberty were affected, with 34 sample car insurance policies reviewed during the investigation. Of these sample policies, 23 policyholders paid Aleliunas in cash.

The insurance companies have linked 236 insurance policies to Aleliunas, who initially used his own name, then later an alias ‘Thomas Vudkas’.

Aleliunas was also working as a security guard during this period. Gardai identified that Aleliunas had 11 bank accounts associated with him, including two in the name of Thomas Vudkas.

Of these 11 accounts, only one had a legitimate source of income. €182,000 was seized from a number of bank accounts. Eight cars and six watches with a value of €126,000 and €4,000 cash were also seized.

Aleliunas invested around €50,000 in cryptocurrency while €80,000 was transferred to an investment company in Dubai.

Pavola, Pavlov and Pavlova each allowed their bank accounts to be used to transfer between €18,000 and €20,000 between June and August 2017 to Dubai on behalf of Aleliunas.

John Byrne SC, for Aleliunas, told the court his client is anxious to take full responsibility and wishes to distance his family from the offending.

Det Sgt Carey agreed with Mr Byrne that his client exercised his right to silence about the ghost brokerage during interview, but provided valuable information.

It was further agreed that when multiple versions of the no claims bonus signed by BC appeared, this helped the insurance companies to “smell a rat”.

The witness agreed that Aleliunas is not suspected of involvement in organised crime or other criminal activities. It was also accepted that his plea was valuable to the prosecution.

Mr Byrne suggested that some of the policyholders were aware that Aleliunas was not a legitimate broker. Det Sgt Carey said it would be “foolish” to think that none were aware, but the majority genuinely believed it was legitimate.

Det Sgt Carey agreed with Eoghan Cole SC, defending Pavola that her role was limited to allowing her account be used as a vehicle for the transfer of money.

It was further accepted that she has a good work history and runs a compliant and legitimate beauty business.

He agreed with defence counsel for Pavlov and Pavlova that they had no obvious trappings of wealth, good work histories and no previous convictions.

All four of the accused are originally from Lithuania.

Mr Byrne asked the court to take into account that his client was the one who came up with the scam which “spiralled out of control”.

He said his client was the “main player” and had taken an “honourable stance” in relation to the case. A number of references were handed into the court.

Mr Byrne said his client is from a “very modest background who suddenly found himself in position to gain easy money” and bought things he didn’t need.

His client has accepted that the seized goods and cash will be forfeited. His instructions are that Aleliunas’s investments in cryptocurrency were unsuccessful.

Aleliunas is remorseful and has been suffering with anxiety and depression in the run-up to the sentencing date.

Mr Byrne suggested this was a “deception case which generated money” and there was no suggestion that his client is involved in organised crime.

In sentencing, Judge Nolan said Aleliunas accumulated “quite a lot of wealth” over a number of years. Judge Nolan said he inferred it was likely that there were “multiples” of the 236 policies identified by the insurance companies.

He said he considered the guilty plea, lack of previous convictions, work history and co-operation with the investigation as mitigation.

Judge Nolan noted the other three defendants have good work histories, no previous convictions and all were asked by Aleliunas to transfer money abroad.

He said they should have been “more careful” and were “somewhat reckless”, but he added that the court considered it would be unjust to imprison them.

He handed Pavola, Pavlova and Pavlov a two-year suspended sentence each. Judge Nolan also agreed not to disqualify Pavola as a director because it would close her business.

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