Man (76) ‘duped’ into money laundering by Facebook friend avoids jail

Court told James O’Rourke from Crosshaven believed he could make money to supplement ‘meagre’ pension

A 76- year-old man whose bank accounts were used for money laundering after he was ‘sucked into a Facebook friendship’ with an American woman has received a six month suspended sentence

A 76- year-old man whose bank accounts were used for money laundering after he was ‘sucked into a Facebook friendship’ with an American woman has received a six month suspended sentence

 

A 76- year-old man whose bank accounts were used for money laundering after he was “sucked into a Facebook friendship” with an American woman has received a six month suspended sentence.

James O’Rourke, of Rosebrien, Newland’s Field, Graball Bay, Crosshaven, pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, which heard that more than €120,000 was fraudulently moved through his bank accounts.

Brian Leahy, O’Rourke’s barrister, said his client inadvertently got involved in criminality because of a lack of knowledge of internet scams.

Det Garda James O’Reilly said the sums included €52,000 sent from a firm in Sweden to the defendant’s Bank of Ireland account in April 2020. Two further sums of €29,000 and €40,000 were transferred from a company in France to his AIB account around the same time.

Concerns raised

Concerns were raised by the banks and O’Rourke was detained for questioning by gardaí, during which he acknowledged that he was in full control of both accounts.

Det Garda O’Reilly said the companies involved had fallen victim to “email redirect fraud”. The companies had made complaints to police in their respective jurisdictions about the matter.

The €52,000 from Sweden was transferred to a bank account in Lithuania soon after it landed in O’Rourke’s account, the court heard.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin heard that O’Rourke had withdrawn just €1,570 of the money sent from France.

Never been in trouble

Mr Leahy said O’Rourke fully cooperated with the investigation and had never been in trouble with the law in his life. The court heard O’Rourke, who gathered €1,500 in compensation, was at a financial loss from his activities.

“He got involved in this scam via Facebook. He invested €2,000 in a programme to feed homeless people in Nigeria having been told he would treble his investment and get €6,000 back. He did this to supplement a meagre pension,” Mr Leahy said.

“He would not be hugely savvy with the internet and he was sucked into a Facebook friendship and believed there was easy money to be made.”

Judge Ó Donnabháin said it “would be alright for a 15-year-old to say something like that but your lad is 76-years-old”.

Mr Leahy said his client had been “duped” into investing in a scheme and promised that an investment would come to fruition.

The judge said O’Rourke’s decisions were “unwise” and it was hard to understand how “bells, whistle and flags” did not go off when he realised his bank accounts were being used to transfer money.