Gardaí identify more than 200 ‘money mule’ bank accounts in three months

Users allow accounts to be used by organised criminals to help launder proceeds of crime

Money mules are usually held by unconnected third parties, who are approached by recruiters and asked to allow their accounts be used for a transaction in exchange for a fee of a few hundred euros. Photograph: iStock

Money mules are usually held by unconnected third parties, who are approached by recruiters and asked to allow their accounts be used for a transaction in exchange for a fee of a few hundred euros. Photograph: iStock

 

Gardaí identified 232 so-called “money mule” accounts active in the State between September and November, as well as five recruiters, the force has said.

A money mule is a person who allows their bank account to be used by organised criminals to help launder the proceeds of crime. The force said it had prevented the loss of €555,000 in the same period through fraudulent transactions.

Money mules are usually held by unconnected third parties, who are approached by recruiters and asked to allow their accounts be used for a transaction in exchange for a fee of a few hundred euros.

They are often unaware that their accounts are being used for illegal purposes. Recruiters often target young people, including on university campuses, for the schemes.

This year, Europol said that mules had been targeted through a variety of ways, with cases “involving romance scams reported on the rise.”

The garda this evening said the mules and recruiters were targeted as part of a wider Europol operation, the fifth European Money Mule Action. Three criminal investigations were opened and remain ongoing, the garda said.

Grooming victims

In total, 3,833 money mules were identified across Europe, alongside 386 recruiters. Some 228 of the recruiters were arrested, and a total loss of €12.9 million was prevented, Europol said in a press release.

The cross border agency said criminals are recruiting money mules on online dating sites, “grooming their victims over time to convince them to open bank accounts under the guise of sending or receiving funds”.

Criminal recruiters are often active on social media and use get-rich-quick online advertisements as well.

While they may be unaware they are playing a part in money laundering, money mules are still committing a crime and – depending on the legal framework of a country – may face lengthy imprisonments and acquire a criminal record.