The criminal courts are getting “impatient” with young people who think they can use their bank accounts to launder criminal funds for easy money, a Circuit Court judge has said.
Judge Martin Nolan was speaking in the case of 19-year-old Zach Phelan, who went on a €9,000 shopping spree after just over €36,000 of stolen money was sent to his account.
“This is getting very prevalent and the court is seeing these types of crimes all the time,” Judge Nolan said. “This court is becoming a little bit impatient with young people of all types who seem to consider this as easy money with no risk.”
Judge Nolan said organised criminals were stealing money from innocent parties and using young people's bank accounts to hold the money.
“This is going to have to stop,” he said.
Phelan, with an address in Liffey Avenue, Liffey Valley Park, Lucan, pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering on November 15, 2019. He was 18 years old at the time.
Garda Fionnuala Lawlor told the court that a business transferred just over €36,000 to what it thought was Colliers International – a client they regularly did business with. However, it later emerged that email correspondence between both businesses had been hacked and the money was sent to Phelan's account.
The transfer raised flags in the bank, given that Phelan had just a few cents in his account at the time of the transfer. He transferred some of it and attempted to transfer further amounts to offshore accounts, but they bounced back.
He was spotted on CCTV in Brown Thomas in Dublin the following day where he spent just under €5,000 on luxury goods. He spent a further €4,000 in electronic stores but was not seen on CCTV footage in these shops. Phelan denied to gardaí that he bought the items for himself.
James Dwyer SC, defending, said his client had a good work history since leaving school at the age of 17. A total of €14,775 of the stolen money was recovered, the court heard.
When interviewed by gardaí, Phelan said he “was a stupid 18-year-old trying to make money”, the court heard. No sign of any luxury items were found in his home. He has no previous convictions.
Judge Nolan adjourned the matter to April 30 for sentencing.