‘Vulnerable' | 

Art student (22) threatened by criminals after becoming money mule given suspended sentence

Judge Pauline Codd handed down a suspended 18 month sentence after she accepted that Balidoy did not receive any financial benefit for his role

Isabel HayesSunday World

A “vulnerable” art student who acted as a money mule and allowed his bank accounts to be controlled by criminals after he was threatened has been given a suspended sentence.

John Balidoy's parents had cameras installed in the family home after they and their son were threatened by money launderers, defence counsel told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today.

Balidoy (22) with an address in Windermere, Clonsilla, Dublin pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering within the state, with other counts taken into consideration. The offending occurred between March and May 2021, the court heard. He has no previous convictions.

Judge Pauline Codd handed down a suspended 18 month sentence today after she accepted that Balidoy did not receive any financial benefit for his role, that he was psychologically “vulnerable” and had been threatened.

Garda Joe Lonergan told Jennifer Jackson BL, prosecuting, that Balidoy was working as a cleaner in an IT company when he became friendly with a man, who eventually persuaded him to allow him to send him money.

Balidoy eventually got suspicious by the financial transactions but was then threatened by this man, who turned up to his family home with two others and issued further threats, the court heard.

The victims of the fraud included two women who clicked on a fraudulent message purporting to be from Bank of Ireland and who then had €18,000 and €14,000 stolen from their bank accounts respectively.

Balidoy's bank accounts were also used for fraudulent Covid Pandemic Unemployment Payments (PUP) which were set up in fake names, the court heard. On one occasion, Balidoy went with the men to the post office at the GPO and withdrew some money for them.

Some money was recovered from Balidoy's accounts, but about €27,000 remains unaccounted for, the court heard. The fraud victims were recompensed the full amount, with the financial institution incurring this loss.

The court heard gardaí accept that Balidoy's accounts were controlled by others and he was subject to threats. When they searched his home, they were shown the security cameras the family had installed out of fear.

Roisin Lacey SC, defending, said her client was extremely remorseful for his actions. She said his parents, who are from the Philippines, came to Ireland when he was small, leaving him in the care of his older sister.

He arrived in Ireland at the age of nine and was subjected to serious bullying, leading to anxiety and depression.

He did not complete his Leaving Cert as a result of this, but did a PLC course and has just started a four year art degree in the National College of Art and Design. He is a promising artist, the court heard.

Ms Lacey said that due to his vulnerabilities, Balidoy was influenced by his colleague, who was his only friend at the time.

Sentencing Balidoy, Judge Codd said that people who allow their bank accounts to be used form a significant part in money laundering schemes. However, she said she would not impose a custodial sentence on Balidoy, noting he has a promising future ahead of him and a supportive family.

She suspended the 18 month sentence on a number of conditions.

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