Judge's surprise at 'money mule' case as Lurgan man enters guilty plea

Judge's surprise at 'money mule' case as Lurgan man enters guilty plea

The case was heard at Craigavon Magistrates' Court.

Staff reporter


Staff reporter



Friday 29 July 2022 22:00

A judge has admitted her surprise that the case of a so-called “money mule” has ended up in her court.

Sean Mackle, 34, from Fox’s Hill in Lurgan, appeared before Craigavon Magistrates’ Court charged with converting criminal property, namely £9,634.18 and transferring criminal property, namely £4,913 contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Guilty pleas were entered on Mackle’s behalf to both charges at the hearing.

Defending, Conor Lunny described the charges as “quite significant”.

“It is,” said District Judge Bernie Kelly. “I'm surprised it's in this court.

“My surprise is the fact that I don't think I have a big enough sentencing part for these offences.

“Therefore, you know where my starting point is in sentencing. This should be a Crown Court every day of the week, shouldn't it?”
The judge asked the prosecution for “a flavour of the criminal activity that garnered or give rise to the this criminal property”.

Mr Lunney explained, “A company in the Republic, a roofing company, based in Wicklow or Wexford, was defrauded of a quite significant of around £300,000-£400,0000 by some fraudster.

“There are then various intermediaries who are used to essentially provide their bank account details to launder that money.

“[Mackle] was availed of by a man - and this is not the first of these cases that I’ve been involved in - an unnamed man. [Mackle] is told that he can make a quick buck if he allowed his post office account to be used to launder that money.

“He does, he gets his £50 or £100. It’s two different transactions, one for about £5,000 and then one for about “10,000. He transfers the 5,000 into euros, and delivers it to the unnamed man.
“Then the £10,000 come through and he takes that out in sterling.”

Asked by the judge how much Mackle made, Mr Lunney responded: “£100 – and it’s not the first of these locally.”

A prosecution representative said that the directing officer had given “a very detailed note” as to why she has prosecuted similarly.

“I believe she's made reference to His Honor Judge McFarland’s sending guidelines in relation to money mule cases, and I believe she is written that previous practise of prosecuting most cases under 10,000 in the Magistrates Court.

“His suggestions is community service for this level which can be imposed by a district judge where there are no aggravating features and in particular, no previous mule crimes.”

“But there is an aggravating feature,” the Judge responded. “A company in the Republic of Ireland has lost £300,000.

“That is a serious aggravating feature. That's enough money, depending on the size or scale of the business to put a business out of business and for their employees to lose their job and the current climate.

“If he and people like them weren't prepared to engage in this, then the defrauding of somebody of that amount of money would have no benefit ultimately to the recipient because they would be easily caught.

“But the ability to be able to filter it through others and then for them in turn be able to “clean it”, as it were, creates an entirely different ball game, and it makes it a much more viable enterprise.

The judge added that her starting point in this case “is not a community service order – it’s how many months I'm giving him in prison.”

A pre-sentence report was ordered to be before the court on September 7.

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