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Keating charity targeted in €200k fraud on banks

THE Marie Keating Foundation and Gary Kelly Cancer Support Centre were among a list of charities targeted by an international 'phishing' scam.

A man was jailed yesterday for his part in the scam which involved gathering information to try to defraud major Irish charities.

Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court was told that gardai believed the accused was to set up the 'Irish leg' of what the judge said was "an elaborate and sophisticated fraud operation".



Arrested

Michael Tuzuka (33) of Park Square, Grange Rath, Drogheda, County Meath pleaded guilty to seven fraud-related offences which happened in Dublin, Mayo and Louth.

The amounts involved in those offences came to €203,000 but details were given in court yesterday of other attempted frauds on other Irish companies and charities.

The court heard just over £25,000 (€30,760) was not recovered but no money was lost by any charity.

The court also heard Tuzuka was arrested after one of the investigating gardai, Detective Garda Sean Fitzpatrick from Drogheda, recognised a Mercedes car as having a registration similar to one Tuzuka was seen getting out of near the AIB in Drogheda on the day of the attempted fraud on the Gary Kelly Cancer Support Centre.

A search of Tuzuka's home recovered equipment for making credit or laser cards and a number of mobile phones which were used in the scam.

He was arrested and the attempted frauds, which had been reported around the country, came to an immediate end.

Detective Garda Michael Kilfeather, of the National Bureau Fraud Investigation said the phishing consisted of "trawling the Internet for publicly known information and using that".

All the UK accounts the funds were to be fraudulently transferred to, were described by him as "mule accounts, set up solely to have the funds transferred there."

The fraud operated by contacting the phone providers of those targeted by the gang and arranging for telephone calls to be diverted to a different number -- this number belonged to the accused or one of his associates.

When bank staff would ring to try to authenticate the transfer, they would be speaking to someone involved in the scam and not a bona fide director or signatory of the account holder.

Garda Kilfeather said the attempted fraud on the Marie Keating Foundation took place on September 10, 2010 when seven separate faxes were sent purporting to be from the charity were sent to the AIB directing it to send money to seven different bank accounts in the UK.



Custody

Tuzuka, a Zimbabwean national, told gardai "his main source of income was cheque fraud and that was how he made a living".

The fraud operation was centred in the UK and Tuzuka was the only person prosecuted in Ireland.

Judge Michael O'Shea jailed him for three years for each offence, the sentences are to run concurrently and date from when he went into custody in October 2010.

hnews@herald.ie


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