A MAN who handled money stolen from a Mexican bank account and took advantage of a weakness in the credit union system to take nearly €14,000 has pleaded with a judge after he was jailed for two years.
Adebowale Okunade (41) with an address in Curragh Hall House, Tyrrellstown, Dublin told Judge Melanie Greally in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today / yesterday (TUES), he had “never been a criminal”.
“I collected money for someone,” Okunade told the court. “I’ve never been a criminal. Please, I have a family.”
Okunade pleaded guilty to possessing the proceeds of crime on October 28, 2014 and to four counts of dishonestly appropriating money from Dunboyne Credit Union and Waterford Credit Union between November 14, 2014 and December 19, 2014.
He also pleaded guilty to using an electricity bill in another name to open another account at Ballyfermot Credit Union on December 15, 2014.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Okunade opened a Bank of Ireland account in Blanchardstown in September 2014 and the following month, a sum of €27,127 was transferred into his account.
Under questioning from Anne Rowland BL, prosecuting, Garda Richard Lynch told the court this money came from the brokerage account of a Mexican woman, who used the fund to care for her elderly mother. This woman’s smartphone was stolen shortly before she noticed the money had disappeared from her account, the court heard.
Gda Lynch told the court that Okunade opened an account at Dunboyne Credit Union in October 2014 and transferred €5,000 from his Bank of Ireland account, which he withdrew in person on October 30.
Okunade then took advantage of a “glitch” in the credit union system to lodge money into his Dunboyne credit union account using a number of “compromised” credit cards.
He made a number of lodgements over the phone using different credit cards, before withdrawing the money in person.
In December 2014, Okunade also transferred money into Waterford Credit Union using a compromised credit card and withdrew €2000 from it, which was the maximum amount he was allowed to take out.
The total loss to the credit unions was €13,950, Gda Lynch said. “Because the credit unions didn’t operate a chip and pin system, they had to suffer the loss,” Gda Lynch said. That system had now been put in place, he added.
The court heard Okunade told gardaí he collected the money for other people.
Pieter Le Vert BL, defending, said Okunade had become involved in crime when he was at a low point in his personal life when his marriage was breaking down. He had since found a new partner.
Mr Le Vert said Okunade, who is originally from Nigeria but has lived in Ireland for 15 years, had no previous criminal convictions and only got €5000 from the crime.
“This is entirely out of character for him,” Mr Le Vert said. “He is terrified at the prospect that may await him.”
Judge Greally said it was not an opportunistic crime.
“Due to a weakness in the credit union system of not demanding a chip and pin, the accused managed to exploit this deficiency and make significant transfers,” she said. “This was a well-planned and systematic exploitation of a glitch and deficiency in the credit union system at the time.”
Judge Greally sentenced Okunade to three years’ imprisonment for possessing the proceeds of crime, but suspended the final 12 months.