Donegal court hears of bank account fraud facilitated by mobile shop employees

€205,201 taken from dozens of personal bank accounts, with sums ranging from €1,000 to €50,000.

A gang which included mobile phone shop employees were behind a major fraud which resulted in the theft of more than €200,000 from dozens of AIB bank account holders, a Co Donegal court has heard.

The scam involved the accounts of people being “taken over” using duplicate SIM cards to access money remotely before accounts were raided. A 27-year-old father-of-three appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court charged with 185 charges relating to the online fraud.

Ami Enabulele, of Glendale Manor, Letterkenny, pleaded guilty to the charges of money laundering, theft, attempted theft and unlawful use of a computer.

In all, a total of €205,201 was taken from dozens of personal bank accounts ranging from about €1,000 to €50,000. All the money has since been returned to the account holders but AIB, whose fraud team uncovered the scam, are still out of pocket.

Det Garda Shane Fitzsimons of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) outlined the scam as Enabulele appeared to be sentenced for his part in the fraud. He explained how the accounts were accessed when the gang accessed the accounts of people online and pretended they had lost their passwords.

In between the gang had liaised with some phone shop employees and bought SIM cards in the same telephone number as the bank account holder but using a different phone provider. When the bank sent a text message with a new password to the account holder, the gang would then access the account and begin taking cash.

AIB fraud management spotted the missing cash having noticed a suspect IP address had accessed or “taken over” 45 of their personal bank accounts. In May, 2019 the bank made a report of the fraud to the GNECB.

Gardaí tracked Enabulele using his IP address and a unique VID number which is attached to any device which logs into an APP online. The AIB fraud unit was able to show this number had been linked to all of the accounts which had been taken over and from which funds were removed.

When arrested and brought to Letterkenny Garda station on May 30th, 2019, Enabulele admitted his part in the fraud and that he knew it was wrong. He also admitted moving money from AIB accounts into a post office account so it could be withdrawn.

The garda said the accused was a bit hazy with some details but overall was “forthright and honest” about his involvement. He also confirmed that a number of phone shop employees were “complicit” in the scam but Enabulele was the only person before the court. No details of the identities of the phone shop employees or the location of the shops were given in evidence.

Enabulele claimed he received about €10,000 for his part in the overall scam.

Evidence was given of how one woman, a Ms Noonan had her account taken over 59 times between December 18th and 23rd, 2018 and that €11,259 was taken from her account. Another woman, a Ms Broderick, had €50,201.93 taken from her account.

Barrister for Enabulele, Shane Costello SC, said his client had admitted to the offences but stressed he was part of a larger group of people involved. He added that his client’s early plea had saved what undoubtedly would have been a very complex trial and that his plea was of great assistance to the State.

He said his client was an asylum seeker who had no work and got involved in this scam through friends to make some money. Enabulele has three children with a fourth on the way but that he was no longer in a relationship with the mother of the children, he added, while he was a carer for one of the children with special needs.

Mr Costello added that his client said he also got involved in the scam out of boredom and did not perceive the scale of the scam which eventually “got out of control”.

Judge John Aylmer said he would need some time to consider all the evidence and adjourned the case for final sentencing on Thursday week.