A fraudster who took part in a €1.5 million money laundering operation for an organised crime gang has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Calin Scintei described himself to gardaí as a “budgie down the mine” who was pressured into carrying out offences for a Romanian organised crime gang, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard today.
These included a Tesco gift card scam, in which he helped to defraud the retailer of €12,400 and an ATM scam in which he caused €18,000 worth of criminal damage to AIB ATMs and stole over €7,600 in cash.
He also took part in a €1.5 million money laundering operation in which he set up 27 bank accounts using false documents and registered five fake companies.
These accounts were responsible for laundering about €780,000, Aideen Collard BL, prosecuting, told the court.
The court heard the gang was laundering money from various criminal scams, such as the Tesco fraud and ATM thefts that Scintei took part in.
One victim of the money laundering crime was a woman who, while on maternity leave, had nearly €10,000 stolen from her after she was sent a fake text from Revenue saying she was entitled to a refund, the court heard.
Scintei (28) with an address at Jameson Orchard, Malahide, pleaded guilty to 25 charges, including participating in organised crime, fraud offences, criminal damage, theft and possessing the proceeds of crime on dates between August 2018 and January 2020.
He has 12 previous convictions, including for theft and fraud offences.
Sentencing him today, Judge Martin Nolan said he accepted Scintei was paid a “modest reward” for his role and was “not a master criminal”.
“But he was certainly a busy criminal,” the judge said.
He noted Scintei had “intelligence”, “charm” and “guile”. “He used all of those talents to advance his criminal behaviour,” Judge Nolan said.
He handed down a four-and-a-half year sentence, noting that but for mitigating factors, he would have considered a headline sentence of eight to nine years, given the nature of the crimes involved.
Dean Kelly SC, defending, said his client moved to Ireland from Romania about eight years ago and has been working ever since in low-paid food delivery jobs.
His mother followed him over shortly afterwards and now works as a hospital staff nurse. Scintei also has a partner here.
Mr Kelly said Scintei started hanging around with some of his fellow country men, built up a gambling debt and needed a way to pay it off.
Scintei was a “cog in an enormous, lucrative wheel” who received very small amounts of money in return for his actions, the court heard.
“This is an overall criminal enterprise with sinister individuals who deploy underlings for the purpose of extra insulation,” Mr Kelly said.
In relation to the money laundering operation, Detective Garda Stephen Kelly from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, said that gardaí were alerted to an organised Romanian crime gang in February 2020 on foot of a report from AIB.
The court heard Scintei used fake Irish and UK driving licences and fake Romanian identity cards to set up bank accounts around the country, as well as fake companies.
He also tried to apply for a PPS number using a fake identity at an Intreo centre in Kildare.
In relation to the Tesco gift card scam, Garda Stephen Murphy told the court that Scintei and another man used a loophole to scam the retailer out of large sums of money.
They used the fake gift cards to buy expensive items in the bigger Tesco stores, including whiskey, champagne, a laptop and a vacuum cleaner, the court heard.
Scintei was identified as being involved when his car registration was caught on CCTV. The loophole in the Tesco gift cards has since been rectified, prosecuting counsel said. His co-accused was dealt with in the courts.
In relation to the ATM scam, the court heard Scintei and another man used a method to prise cash out of the dispenser by hand.
This caused €18,000 worth of damage to ATMs in the Leinster area and they managed to steal a total of €7,690.
Scintei was again identified as a result of his car registration. His co-accused has since left the jurisdiction, the court heard.