A British man is accused of flying large sums of cash into Shannon Airport on an aircraft in an alleged scheme to money-launder tens of millions of euro made from mass-mail fraud campaigns.
Robert Paul Davis (63) along with three other executives of Canadian-Irish payment-processing group PacNet Services has been charged by US prosecutors in Nevada in the alleged fraud.
The US government has accused Mr Davis, who ran PacNet’s office in Shannon from 2001 to 2016, along with PacNet’s founder Rosanne Day (51), Genevieve Renee Frappier (49) and Miles Kelly (55), of operating “the payment processor of choice” for companies that mailed large volumes of fraudulent notifications.
The mail notifications were, according to US court papers, designed to mislead victims into falsely believing they would receive a large amount of money, a valuable prize such as a luxury car or specialised psychic services upon payment of a fee.
PacNet is alleged to have served as the middleman between banks and fraudulent mailers by collecting payments from the victims, depositing the cash into its bank accounts and then distributing the funds.
The four individuals have each been charged one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and multiple counts of mail fraud and wire fraud.
The executives of the Vancouver-based PacNet could face up to 20 years in prison on each charge. It is alleged that PacNet processed on average more than $100 million a year in the last five years it was in operation.
Mr Davis and Ms Day each were paid $15 million in Canadian dollars (€10 million) from 2013 to 2015, it is claimed.
Mr Davis, PacNet's general counsel who was known under the Christian name Paul, had an address in Ballycasey, Shannon, but is now living in the Isle of Man.
Many of the victims of the alleged scheme were elderly or “vulnerable” and, according to the charges filed in a Las Vegas court, included an elderly nursing home resident with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and a 90-year-old American who wrote 85 cheques to multiple mass-mail clients totalling $2,326 (€2,000).
The charges stem from an international investigation led by the US postal inspection service and including the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and Canadian, British and Dutch investigators. CAB has been investigating PacNet since 2016.
The criminal indictment filed in the US district court allege PacNet’s mass-mail clients directed consumers to mail payments to post-office boxes opened by Mr Davis, part-owner of PacNet, in the Republic and the UK. Mr Davis also hired an individual to collect and sort the mail received in the UK, it is claimed.
"At times Davis, who had a pilot's licence, flew an airplane owned by PacNet to the United Kingdom to pick up the mail and flew back to Ireland with the mail," says the indictment.
“At other times Davis arranged for another pilot to fly the PacNet airplane to the United Kingdom to pick up the mail and fly back to Ireland with the mail.”
He is alleged to have later hired a courier to collect the mail and transport it to Ireland where he operated a “caging service,” a type of agency that processes payments from consumers to mass-mail operators.
US prosecutors claim Mr Davis directed employees at the “Ireland caging service” to open the mail, remove the payments and deliver the payment to PacNet.
In 2008, he “abruptly closed the Ireland caging service” after learning that UK police had executed a search warrant at the business and home of the individual whom Davis had hired to collect and sort the mail from the post office boxes he had opened in the UK, the indictment alleges.
He is accused of flying the PacNet aircraft on several occasions to pick up cash for a fraudulent PacNet mass-mail client from a caging service in the Netherlands and flying back to Ireland with the cash.
On one occasion in May 2012, he is alleged to have collected more than $40,000 US dollars and more than $20,000 Canadian dollars from the Dutch service.
PacNet stopped processing payments in September 2016 when the US designated it a “significant transnational criminal organisation,” froze some of its assets and filed related criminal and civil charges against other defendants.
The designation was removed in October 2017.