International fraud teams operating here

 

AT LEAST two pan-European groups of fraudsters have targeted the Republic to cash stolen Eurocheques, using counterfeit identification and bank cards.

An unknown amount of money has been obtained fraudulently this year by gangs based in England the Netherlands and Spain.

It is believed it will exceed the previous annual levels of around £100,000.

The fraudsters are using forged passports. The usual verification used in cashing the cheques is a passport, identity card or driving licence and the requirement of a signature matching that on the cheque.

At least four people have been convicted of this type of fraud this year.

The latest were two Englishmen sentenced to six months' imprisonment at Mullingar District Court last Friday.

Roger Painter (52), from Ilford, Essex, and Tony Discipline (35), from London, were caught after they tried to pass two stolen Eurocheques at a shop in Mullingar. They were recognised by an assistant who recalled they had cashed stolen cheques earlier in the year.

They were sentenced to six months' imprisonment and are in Mountjoy Prison. It is understood they are likely to lace further charges.

According to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, the stolen cheques have turned up in every county since the start of the year. The bureau and the main banks are calculating the extent of the fraud. One case this year is known to have involved the passing of at least £10,000 worth of stolen cheques by two men.

Insp John McKeon of the bureau said yesterday: "Credit card and cheque fraud perpetrated by indigenous criminals is predictable enough.

"But since the Single European Act has come into operation and Border checks have gone, these fraudsters have emerged. The groups are of various nationalities. Given the amounts of money that can be gained, it was inevitable that we would see an increase in this."

The cheques have a maximum value of around £140 and usually come in books of 20.