26 Sept 2022

Man convicted of money laundering after Kilkenny company targeted in invoice redirect fraud

A man who admitted his role in a money laundering scam, which targeted a Kilkenny company, was handed down a suspended prison sentence at Kilkenny Circuit Court.
Zachary Mandungu, 1 Goldenridge Close, Rush, Co Dublin admitted the offence which resulted in a local company lodging over €11,000 to a bank account which they believed to belong to a customer, in an invoice redirect fraud.
Sergeant Paul Coleman gave evidence and outlined how on March 27, 2019 a Kilkenny-based company contacted gardaí and reported that they were the victim of an invoice redirect fraud.
The sergeant said the company got an email purporting to be from a customer stating that they had changed bank account and that into future monies should be paid into a different account.
On March 22, 2019 a payment of €7,412 was made into the bank account by the company believing it to be a customer account and another payment of €4,585 was lodged on March 26, 2019. The company contacted the customer and found out that there were the victim of an invoice redirect fraud and contacted gardaí.
Sgt Coleman told the court that the account was then frozen and €4,593 was returned to the company who suffered a total loss of €7,403.11.
An order was obtained by gardaí to access the account that the money had been transferred into. The account was in the name of the defendant. Mr Mandungu was arrested and interviewed and co-operated fully with gardaí.
The court heard that the defendant rented out his bank account to unknown males and that the monies were transferred into that account. The defendant had received a payment of approximately €1,100 for allowing his account to be used in this way.
Prosecuting barrister, Dylan Redmond explained the nature of the fraud.
“Someone contacted him via a social media platform and offered to rent his account for €1,100. Gardaí do not believe that he sent the email to the company. That originated from outside the State and cannot be traced,” he said.
The court heard that the defendant made full admissions and entered an early guilty plea.
The defendant has no previous convictions.
Sgt Coleman said that while the injured party declined to make a victim impact statement they wanted to convey to the court the seriousness of the offence and the impact of this type of offence on a small to medium sized business.
“There seemed to be a lack of awareness of the bigger picture by Zachary Mandungu,” added Sgt Coleman.
Evidence was heard that the defendant was on social welfare at the time of the offence but has recently started in full-time employment.
Defence barrister, Sean Rafter told the court that the communication started via the social media platform, Snapchat.
Mr Rafter explained that his client had been asked for his bank account details by unknown criminals who then directed that the defendant attend at a bank to withdraw the cash.
“Someone turned up masked wearing a scarf,” Mr Rafter said and added that his client had handed over the cash to the unknown person. The court heard that there was no CCTV available of the person taking the money.
Sgt Coleman remarked that Snapchat is ‘an ideal platform for fraud’ as ‘nothing is retained on the device’. The sergeant told the court that he had contacted Snapchat in relation to the fraud but had not received a response.
Mr Rafter said that his client was ‘used as a mule’ by more sophisticated and organised criminal elements who used Snapchat to lure him with the offer of easy money. He described the offence as being ‘at the lowest end of the scale on the basis of recklessness’.
A sum of €1,100 was paid over in compensation to the injured party.
A probation report was also handed into the court along with a number of references, including a letter from a pastor.
“My client comes from a large black family in West Dublin. He is one of 10 siblings and comes from a strong Christian family,” said Mr Rafter, who added that his client is ‘embarrassed and ashamed’ for his actions.
The court heard that the defendant has ‘strong community supports’ and a letter was handed in from Foroige which described him ‘as a man of incredible promise’.
“My client has a previously unblemished record and is well aware of the seriousness of the offence,” he said.
Judge Patrick Meghan said that he had to take into consideration that the company was still at a loss as a result of the invoice redirect fraud and the serious effect of such crimes on small and medium-sized businesses.
“He was not aware of the source of the email or of the funds but nonetheless he benefited from it,” he said.
The court heard the 22-year-old lives at home with his parents and siblings and has ‘good family and community support’.
The judge said that in view of the mitigating circumstances and that he repaid what he got as compensation the appropriate sentence was two years. He suspended the sentence in its entirety for three years on condition that he undertake to do 240 hours work with the Probation Services. He also directed that the defendant enter a bond to be of good behaviour and keep the peace

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