A woman who posed as a UN diplomat and took nearly €9,000 from a Japanese woman in Dublin airport has been given a suspended three-year sentence.
Agata Pracz (39) from Swords, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to dishonestly inducing Yumi Takekoshi to hand over €8,990 on July 15, 2014 by promising her access to a container filled with cash.
Garda Enda Ledwith previously told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that Ms Takekoshi, a 58-year-old Tokyo woman, was contacted through social media site, LinkedIn, by a woman purporting to a be a “two-star US general” based in Dublin Airport.
The 'general' told Ms Takekoshi a container filled with currency to the value of $10.5 million (€6.8 million) was at a bonded warehouse in Dublin and that she would give Ms Takekoshi access to it for the sum of €8990.
As a result, Ms Takekoshi booked a flight and flew into Dublin airport on July 15, 2014 where she met a woman who claimed to be a UN diplomat named Sandra Daly.
“That woman was actually the accused,” Gda Ledwith said.
Pracz took Ms Takekoshi to a bar in Dublin airport and took the money from her, before promising to call her with details of the container full of cash, the court heard.
However, Ms Takekoshi became suspicious after the meeting and took a taxi to the Japanese embassy, which contacted the gardaí.
Pracz, a Polish national, was arrested on the M1 motorway some days after this incident after gardaí recognised her car from Dublin airport CCTV footage.
She claimed she met a man named 'James' of Nigerian or Ghanaian background in a pub who organised the deal with Ms Takekoshi and she was just the “cash collector”, Gda Ledwith said.
She said she got involved in the scam after she got into financial difficulties.
When gardai searched Pracz's home, they recovered just over €4000 and a laptop, Gda Ledwith said. He said Pracz said she had tried to get in touch with James but couldn't so she spent the other half of the money on paying off her debts.
Garda experts were unable to hack into the laptop, which was heavily encrypted and Pracz told gardaí she couldn't remember the password.
The court heard Pracz has lived in Ireland since 2006 and has no previous convictions in the country. She has three convictions for fraud-related offences in Poland.
“She would be low level in relation to these charges,” Gda Ledwith said, adding Pracz had made no admissions in relation to any internet interactions between herself and Ms Takekoshi.
However, Judge Patrick McCartan said he had reservations about Pracz's version of events. He said he found it “difficult to believe” Pracz had met a man she didn't know in a pub and agreed to get involved in the scam.
Sentencing Pracz today, he said he had “difficulty accepting the case in its entirety”.
“All of the evidence suggests she is a different person than what was presented to me on the evidence,” he said. The judge said he believed Pracz was the recipient of “100 per cent” of the money.
“But I have to accept the evidence as it's presented,” the judge said, noting Pracz had fully repaid the money taken from Ms Takekoshi.
Handing down the suspended sentence, Judge McCartan said he hoped he wouldn't meet Pracz again.
“If she does drift back into her old practises in which she is well versed, well, I'll be waiting here for you and you won't get a second chance,” he told her.