A woman who pleaded guilty to allowing her bank account and passport to be used by others in a "very complex scam" says she did so because she was in fear.
Felecia Junaid, 20, appeared before Bandon District Court on a charge of money laundering after gardaí found that others had intercepted an email exchange between a woman in Kinsale and the caretaker of her property in France, and defrauded her of thousands of euro.
Ms Junaid, of 24 Westbourne Court, Watery Road, in Ennis in Co Clare, pleaded guilty to the charge but, in the words of her solicitor, Myra Dinneen, only did so because she was "reckless" and that she had been taken advantage of by others.
Sgt Paul Kelly told Judge Colm Roberts that on June 26, 2019, the woman in Kinsale had received an email from the caretaker of a property she owns in France to say that she owed maintenance costs of €2,479.93, and that this was to be deposited to a PTSB account.
This email was intercepted, however, and on the following day, June 27, the woman received another email from a very similar email address to the one from which the first email was sent, but with one letter missing. That email asked the woman to deposit the maintenance fee for the same amount into a Bank of Ireland account instead. The email included the relevant BIC and IBAN numbers.
On August 30, 2019, the woman reported a fraudulent transaction from her AIB account, and gardaí began investigating.
They learned that the account to which the money had been transferred had been opened in the name of Ms Junaid, and that her passport had been used to open it. When the funds had been withdrawn from that account, it was then closed.
The judge was told that on December 2, 2020, gardaí from Kinsale met Ms Junaid by appointment at Ennis Garda Station.
Ms Junaid told gardaí that she had given the details of her bank account to three men, one of whom she knew personally. She didn't ask what they were going to use the account for and was told by the men never to check the account.
Sgt Kelly said Ms Junaid said she had been in fear and she never received any money. Ms Junaid has not identified any of the males she said were involved.
Judge Roberts described what occurred as a "very complex scam" and Sgt Kelly said: "There were bigger brains and brighter person behind the scenes and she facilitated the transaction".
Judge Roberts said: "The question is, is this defendant a useful idiot or is she more than that?"
Ms Dinneen said her client had cooperated with gardaí and had been only 18 when the incident occurred.
She said her client was born in Ireland and lived in Ennis and was training to be a social worker.
Ms Dinneen said the guilty plea was on the basis of recklessness, and that in the early part of 2019, probably around April, she had been going out with one of the males and his friend asked her over Snapchat for the bank account details and her passport.
As to whether she believed her account was being used for suspicious activity, Ms Dinneen quoted her as saying "I thought it was but, as it was a friend, I trusted him".
Judge Roberts said it was a matter of judgement, and that Ms Junaid's judgement "has let her down significantly". He said a conviction would end her career before it had started.
Ms Dineen said: "She was completely and utterly taken advantage of."
The court heard the woman had not been compensated, although gardaí were checking whether the bank may have reimbursed her regarding the fraud.
Judge Roberts said of the fraud: "If it worked here, it worked elsewhere."
He adjourned the case until June 17, with a probation report to be prepared for that date.