| 2.5°C Dublin

Face of mobster at centre of €15m cyber-fraud as 'hackerville' crew busted

Close

Radu Agapie helped to launder the gang’s cash

Radu Agapie helped to launder the gang’s cash

Gear seized by Gardai during raids linked to Radu Agapie gang last summer

Gear seized by Gardai during raids linked to Radu Agapie gang last summer

Some of the fake documents seized in a raid on a Dublin apartment

Some of the fake documents seized in a raid on a Dublin apartment

Radu Agapie helped to launder the gang’s cash

A key member of an international organised crime gang who was caught opening Irish bank accounts using fake documentation is from a Romanian city which has been nicknamed 'Hackerville'.

The central Romanian city earned its dubious title because more than 80 of its inhabitants have been arrested as part of a major EU crackdown on the fraud mob, which has led to 110 arrests in total across the continent.

Yesterday, a main player in the outfit who had been operating from an Artane apartment until he was busted by elite detectives last July, was jailed for four-and-a-half years at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Our exclusive photo shows Radu Agapie (28), who pleaded guilty to five counts of control of fake Polish and Hungarian identification cards, four counts of using fake documentation to open bank accounts and three counts of money laundering on dates between July 2018 and July 2019.

Specialist officers from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) played the lead role in an EU-wide investigation which established that Agapie's gang has stolen over €15m in the last three-and-a-half years.

Gardai attached to the GNECB have arrested a dozen of the gang's members in a major clampdown in the past year and more arrests and charges are expected in the coming weeks.

The gang has made millions from fake Airbnb web scams and other organised frauds.

Duped

It is also suspected of carrying out thousands of organised frauds in other EU countries and then using Irish financial institutions to launder the cash.

"Primarily this gang have been involved in two different types of organised fraud in Europe," a senior source said.

"One of the scams has targeted customers of Airbnb and many other accommodation providers all across Europe.

"Customers have been duped into paying money for bogus accommodation - they think they are renting genuine accommodation but in fact the money is being diverted to the organised criminal gang who have set up false websites.

"In other cases, people have been conned into paying huge money for all kinds of items, from watches to cars to tractors, in this very elaborate internet fraud.

"As soon as the cash goes into the gang's bank account, it is removed from it by the criminals."

Agapie's role in the huge organised fraud was to open multiple bank accounts in Ireland so that the dirty cash could be deposited in them and then removed.

Like dozens of his associates in the massive gang, he is from the small city of Ramnicu Valcea, which was identified by the FBI as early as the 1990s as a "hotspot" for cybercrime.

Now, almost 25 years later, gardai say the "sheer scale" of the gang's international activities is "absolutely staggering", but the GNECB has emerged as the lead police agency in bringing it down.

The jail sentence handed down yesterday to Agapie is considered "hugely significant" as under-resourced gardai attempt to being down the crime gang.

Agapie has 10 previous convictions in Finland for falsification of documentation, forgery and laundering of proceeds of crime - all related to the same incident when he was arrested at Helsinki Airport just after arriving in the country for the first time in 2017.

Sources said the co-operation between Finnish police and gardai in the long-running investigation has been "particularly significant", with three of the gang arrested in Finland in the past 18 months.

Yesterday Judge Melanie Greally noted Agapie had spent six months in prison for his previous convictions in Finland the year before these offences and then come to Ireland, where he engaged in "very serious and sophisticated acts of falsification".

She said the sums of money in question, which totalled almost €80,000, may not have been for his benefit but added that the court had to have regard to the fact he was playing a vital role in a larger criminal organisation.

The judge also took into account that he had a cocaine addiction.

Identified

Detective Garda John Carmody told the court the GNECB had been working with Interpol and other agencies in a Europe-wide intelligence-led investigation into criminal organisations involved in money laundering and fraud.

Gardai identified a number of companies which had bank accounts set up on their behalf which they believed were being used for money laundering. Agapie was identified as a person of interest.

A number of addresses were also identified in the investigation, with one at Timber Mills, Artane, being used by members of the organisation as a place of residence for opening bank accounts.

A search was conducted at the apartment and gardai recovered a "toolkit" for making false documentation and identity cards from a bedroom where they found Agapie asleep.

Officers seized a printer and scanner, guillotine and cutters, and laminators, as well as files for plastic, glue, scissors and a hair-dryer.

Gardai also recovered five identity cards in five names, each bearing Agapie's photograph.

The lease for the room in the apartment Agapie was in was not in his name and another person living in the apartment was not involved in the offending.

The court heard that three bank accounts opened using the faked documentation contained a total of €79,564 and a total of €65,660 was withdrawn.

The accounts were opened face to face, requiring production of documentation and proof of identification and address.

Agapie was arrested, interviewed and then charged and has been a model prisoner in Cloverhill since, the court was told.