Teenager recruited more than 50 young people in Kerry as money ‘mules’ for gang

Young people allowing crime syndicate use bank accounts for fraud-gained funds

A young man from Munster is believed to be working for a crime gang as a recruiter to convince his peers to allow their bank accounts to be used to receive ill-gotten gains.

A young man from Munster is believed to be working for a crime gang as a recruiter to convince his peers to allow their bank accounts to be used to receive ill-gotten gains.

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Gardaí have identified over 50 young people in and around one Co Kerry town who were recruited as money mules for an international crime syndicate.

The Irish Times understands a young man from Munster is believed to be working for the crime gang as a recruiter and his reach into the local population, especially among students, has proven significant.

The recruiter, himself an Irish teenager, appears to have been very successful at convincing his peers to allow their bank accounts be used to receive money from the frauds carried out by the gang.

Garda sources said they were very concerned such a large number of young people in a relatively sparsely populated part of the Republic were so willing to allow their accounts to be used.

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“A few people will come to our attention in a particular area and then you’ll soon see the group getting bigger and bigger as more people get involved through word of mouth,” said one source.

Operation Skein

The Garda’s investigation, Operation Skein, into the criminals involved, is being carried out by detectives from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau. Nationally, over 400 suspects have now been arrested as criminal investigations continue into the two main gangs involved.

The core criminals involved are suspected of stealing at least €20 million from victims around the world in recent years. They send bogus invoices to companies and trick them into transferring money to bank accounts controlled by the gang. The targeted firms believe they are paying money to a trading partner as part of their normal business activities.

The crimes – known as invoice redirect frauds – are carried out by a group of fraudsters at the centre of the crime syndicate. However, a much wider group of people and bank accounts is then required to support the activities of the core gang.

Victims tricked

The gangs involved have launched campaigns to convince young people to allow sums of money pass through their bank accounts. This has included social media advertising promising monthly payments for “working from home” and similar offers.

Those who inquire about the offer are promised payments if they allow money be received into or pass through their accounts, with recruiters now targeting secondary schools and some third-level institutions.

However, once the victims of the frauds realise they have been tricked and alert gardaí, the passage of the money through the various bank accounts can easily be tracked and the mules identified. To date over 400 arrests have been made, including members of the core fraud group, their recruiters and young people who allowed their accounts to be used.