Ireland

Italian jailed for role in a fraud linked to international crime gang

An Italian national who opened bank accounts into which fraudulently obtained funds were transferred in connection with an “international criminal organisation” has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Giuseppe Diviccaro (46) accepted he opened seven bank accounts with seven separate banks into which fraudulently obtained funds were transferred and then moved out “very quickly”.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that while most of the accounts were opened using a legitimate Italian ID card, Diviccaro used the same fraudulent utility bill also being used by a large number of other persons of interest.

The court heard that over €200,000 was transferred into these accounts, with approximately 70% of those funds being quickly transferred or withdrawn.

Diviccaro with an address at Addison Drive, Glasnevin, pleaded guilty to knowingly contributing to the activities of a criminal organisation within the State on dates between June 21st, 2018 and July 17th, 2020.

Money laundering

He also pleaded guilty to offences of money laundering within the State on dates between June 22, 2018 and April 6, 2019. He has three previous convictions in Italy, including convictions for damaging a public building and making a false statement regarding his own identification.

Detective Garda Angela Gavin told Fionnuala O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau became interested in the emerging trend of bank accounts being opened in Italian names in Ireland which were then receiving money from invoice redirect frauds.

Det Gda Gavin said an invoice redirect fraud is when companies receive emails purporting to be from legit suppliers saying they have changed bank details, causing money to be transferred into the wrong account which is generally quickly transferred elsewhere.

She said the Bureau received reports from banks regarding suspicious activity involving different Italian people opening accounts with legitimates ID cards, but using the same address and utility bill.

‘International crime organisation’

Det Gda Gavin said the head of the Bureau formed the view that these people were part of an “international criminal organisation” that had been laundering the proceeds of fraud through accounts in Ireland since early 2018.

She said well over €1m had thought to have been stolen as of April 2020, with substantially more stolen since.

An investigation following a Dutch company falling victim to an invoice redirect fraud established that emails received by the company were sent from an IP address in Ireland.

Gardaí were able to identify a suspect in relation to the sending of those emails and this person was found to be connected to a large number of individuals and bank accounts, including accounts held by Diviccaro.

The link between all of these individuals was that the same utility bill was being used to open the accounts, which was how Diviccaro was identified.

An examination of the accounts opened by Diviccaro showed they were used for receiving money from invoice redirect frauds.

Det Gda Gavin said a total of €200,019.65 was lodged into all of the accounts opened by the accused. She said €138,573.50 was subsequently transferred out of those accounts, meaning approximately 70% of the money coming in was going out “very quickly”.

During a search of the accused’s address, gardaí seized €9,750 in cash which they were satisfied came primarily from money withdrawn from one of the accounts.

They also seized a mobile phone which contained photos of the ID cards of other persons of interest.

‘Business model’

Det Gda Gavin agreed with James Dwyer SC, defending, that the “business model” was that these accounts were opened, used, were very quickly frozen and then became redundant.

The detective agreed with counsel that his client was “not the brains behind the operation”. She agreed the accused “offered up” a bank account in the interview which had not been originally part of the investigation.

Mr Dwyer handed in a letter of apology, during which he said his client describes an addiction to gambling which “turned him into a criminal” in order to pay his debt.

‘Front man’

Counsel said the court is able to infer his client had a role handling large quantities of cash, but asked the court to hold he was at a lower end “putting his name” to criminality.

Judge Melanie Greally said Diviccaro was “the front man” for opening accounts into which fraudulently obtained funds were being channelled and then immediately transferred outside the jurisdiction.

Judge Greally said there was a 70% success rate in getting the money out of the accounts. She said the accused man does not appear to have been involved with the frauds.

She said the accused may not be in his own eyes a criminal, but he is certainly someone whose actions feed into the criminality of others.

Judge Greally sentenced Diviccaro to five years imprisonment, but suspended the final 18 months on strict conditions including that he leave the jurisdiction within 14 of his release and not return for 15 years.

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