Thursday 14 December 2017

Dublin-based taxi driver avoids jail sentence after accepting €150,000 worth of fake travellers' cheques

Jessica Magee

A taxi-driver and accountancy student has avoided going to jail after he was caught accepting a delivery of fake travellers' cheques valued at €150,000.

Morgan Obiukwu (44) told gardaí he knew the counterfeit cheques were being sent from Nigeria but didn't expect such a large amount and was surprised at the weight of the package when it arrived.

The father-of-three pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to impeding the prosecution of another person who had imported false instruments on May 5, 2010.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring gave Obiukwu a 12-month suspended sentence, taking into account his otherwise good behaviour, hard work and early guilty plea.

Gardaí and customs officials were tipped off that a parcel of counterfeit cheques were being sent to Obiukwu's home address at Oak Avenue, Royal Oak, Santry, Dublin 9.

Garda Barry Griffin told Maurice Coffey BL, prosecuting, that a controlled delivery was set up.

After Obiukwu was seen accepting a parcel at his door and signing for it gardaí used force to gain entry to the house. During the entry Obiukwu was spotted through a back window trying to hide the package behind white bin bags.

Gardaí found an envelope in the kitchen containing three bundles of American Express travellers’ cheques worth a total of €150,000, addressed to Jerry Mugitsu.

Obiukwu was arrested and admitted using a false name to accept delivery of the cheques, and also seeking to hide the cheques from gardaí.

The court heard he is in his final year of studying accountancy at Dublin Business School and drives a taxi. He has three previous minor convictions, including road traffic offences.

Gda Griffin agreed with Giollaíosa O Lideadha SC, defending, that Obiukwu cooperated during interview, was very decent and polite and is unlikely to re-offend.

The court heard gardaí allowed Obiukwu to travel home twice to Nigeria, including once to attend his mother's funeral, while charges were pending against him.

Mr O Lideadha said his client originally faced a more serious charge until the prosecution later accepted he had played a secondary role in the offence.

Testimonials were handed into court from Obiukwu's wife, his former partner, a Methodist minister, Dublin Business School and a taxi-driver colleague. They praised Obiukwu as a hard-working man devoted to his family.

The court heard Obiukwu volunteers one day a week at a charity where he is “loved by all”.

Mr O Lideadha said his client's conviction is likely to create difficulties for him acquiring Irish citizenship and in his accountancy career.

Judge Ring ordered Obiukwu to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for 12 months.

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