A college student has received a suspended sentence for laundering money which was linked to a redirect scam in which another college student lost over €14,000 meant for her college fees.
The victim, originally from New Zealand and in her final year of studying medicine at UCD, contacted gardaí after money put into her bank account by her father for her college fees never arrived.
Detective Garda Barry Griffin told Pieter Le Vert BL, prosecuting, that the UCD student made arrangements with her father in New Zealand for him to transfer money for her college fees into her Bank of Ireland account.
When the money did not arrive, and the woman’s father said he had already got a receipt for it, the woman made inquiries and found it had gone into an account in her name in Balbriggan, which she never set up.
Investigations led gardaí to Erik Nemes (22) of Kelly’s Bay Harbour, Skerries, Co Dublin.
Gardaí got a warrant to search his house, and Nemes agreed to attend a garda station for an interview.
He told gardaí the money had come into his bank account, and he met with his friend and a more sinister person who told him to withdraw various sums from different post offices.
Nemes said he knew at this stage that something was wrong, but he felt under considerable pressure. He said he was told to go into town and buy a number of iPhones. When he said he did not want to, he felt under threat.
Nemes subsequently pleaded guilty to possessing the sum of €14,470 as the proceeds of crime at Bank of Ireland in Balbriggan on December 14th, 2018.
At a hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday, Judge Martin Nolan handed Nemes, who is also a college student, a one-year sentence but suspended it in full.
The court heard that Nemes had given his bank card to a friend who said that if he gave them access to his bank account, he would be able to buy shoes and clothing at a discounted price.
“He gave the details of his bank account to his friend on the basis of a spurious story. He knew it was a criminal enterprise. He must have known there was something afoot,” said Judge Nolan.
Nemes brought €1,000 to court by way of compensation, and Judge Nolan ordered that this sum be paid onward to the injured party within the next month.
Gda Griffin said Nemes was extremely cooperative and had not received any money for his role. The court heard Nemes was studying engineering and technology at Drogheda Institute of Further Education and has no previous convictions.
A victim impact statement by the father who transferred the money was handed into court but not read aloud. The court heard he suffered considerable anxiety and was upset at having to replace the money for the fees, which was never recovered.
Gda Griffin agreed with defending counsel that Nemes was unlikely to come to garda attention again and had no part in the initial money laundering scam.
When asked by gardaí why he had not reported the matter, Nemes replied: “It was a choice between me choosing the money going into my account, or my life.”
Counsel for the defence said Nemes had come from a difficult background and had experienced domestic violence in the family home.
Several letters were submitted to the court on Nemes’ behalf, including one from his mother describing her shock at discovering his wrongdoing.