LOETB hit in €178,000 bill redirection fraud over Tullamore schoolwork

The Criminal Courts of Dublin.

by Sonya McLean

Laois Offaly Education Training Board (LOETB) has been the victim of invoice redirection fraud over a payment of €178,000 for work at a school in Tullamore, Dublin Criminal Court heard this week.

A divorced couple have been given a suspended prison sentence for laundering money stolen from the school board in the bill redirection fraud.

Zanab Ibrahim (51) of Wolfe Tone Street, Cavan, Co Cavan and her ex-husband Francis Falaye (54) of Lobinstown Apartment, Navan, Co Meath pleaded guilty in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to money laundering on October 31 2014. The couple divorced in 2004.

The court heard that while €178,695 had been transferred to a bank account in Ibrahim’s business account, €50,000 of that amount had been transferred to Falaye’s account four days later.

Garda Shane Fitzsimons told Emmet Nolan BL, prosecuting, that a total of €178,965 was taken through bill redirection fraud after the Laois/Offaly Education and Training Board paid a construction company for work done at a school in Tullamore.

A genuine invoice was sent to the council before the accounts department received an email, claiming to be from the construction company, asking them to make payment to a permanent TSB bank account.

The fraud came to light when the construction company said it had not yet received payment.

An investigation was launched and it was discovered that the email originated from the Czech Republic.

Gda Fitzsimons has confirmed that Ibrahim is responsible for the €178,965 which was deposited into a bank account in the name of a fashion boutique she owned in Co Cavan, while Falaye is responsible for the €50,000 which was subsequently transferred to his bank account on 3 November. 2014.

Judge Elma Sheahan suspended a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence on the condition that each of the defendants respect public order and demonstrate good behavior. She ordered Falaye to pay €1,000 to the Peter McVerry Trust.

Ibrahim was arrested in February 2015 and brought in for questioning where she made some confessions. She admitted to owning the Moore Street-based business in Dublin, which operated until 2009.

She claimed that she authorized the transfer of the money to her account as she was expecting €205,000 from the sale of a house in Nigeria, but Gda Fitzsimons said she did not agree to her request and said that there were no plans to sell a house. .

Ibrahim said she had transferred €50,000 to Falaye to enable her to buy two trucks for her mother’s farm.

Gda Fitzsimons have agreed with defending Keith Spencer BL that all but €1,000 of the money that was taken has been recovered.

He admitted that she entered the plea on the grounds that she had been reckless in accepting the money into his account. It was admitted that she had not come to the attention of Garda since 2014.

Gda Fitzsimons agreed with Kevin Roche BL, defending Falaye, that the original email was not sent by either his client or Ibrahim.

He acknowledged that Falaye had a business involved in exporting vehicles to Nigeria through a company which was first registered in 2008.

Mr Spencer asked the court to accept that Ibrahim was not involved in the redirect fraud that led to the money being taken, but instead allowed her account to be used, when she allegedly had to find out more about why his account was needed.

She is the mother of two adult children. He said she was quite a vulnerable person and lived in a hostel.

Mr Roche said Falaye should have asked if the money was legitimate before allowing it to be transferred to his account and now fully accepts that he “should never have taken that risk”.

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