A group of 'money mules' who stole almost £300,000 from bank accounts belonging to the sick and elderly have avoided jail.
The 13 thieves, many of whom were working for notorious conman Jay Cartmill, were given a range of suspended sentences and probation orders by courts in Belfast and Craigavon.
They allowed their accounts to be used for the transfer of cash stolen electronically from pensioners who did not use internet banking and did not notice their life savings had been wiped out.
The mules, who were largely unknown to each other, toured bureaux de changes across Northern Ireland withdrawing the money in small amounts.
The fraudsters pocketed 25 percent of the cash and handed the rest to middle men working for Cartmill, who is now at the centre of a major investigation by the PSNI's Economic Crimes Unit.
The 37-year-old used the money to invest in legitimate front businesses, including a barber shop, beauty salon and creche, and to lead a lavish lifestyle, including Champagne helicopter trips to the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights.
Cartmill has refused to speak to Sunday Life about his key role in the multimillion-pound scam, which a detective told Belfast Crown Court involves 215 cases.
The west Belfast man has more than 100 fraud convictions stretching back almost 20 years. His many victims include Stephen Nolan and Eamonn Holmes, who he fleeced for more than £50,000.
The cash he arranged to be transferred into the accounts of his money mules never totalled more than £10,000 at a time, so as to avoid fraud checks.
Security sources confirmed they are building a detailed case against him.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wilson from the PSNI's Economic Crime Unit warned the police will pursue those involved in the scam.
"We are committed to keeping people safe by pursuing those involved in laundering criminally derived money," he said.
"If you allow your bank account to be used for money laundering, it can lead to you losing your bank account and finding it extremely difficult to get access to a new one. I would appeal for anyone with any information on money mules to contact police on 101 or call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."
The latest of Cartmill's money mules to be convicted in court are:
÷ Luke McParland (29), from Old Suffolk Road in Belfast, who stole £60,000 and was sentenced to 15 months in jail, suspended for two years;
÷ Linda Mayanne Duff (37), from Crossland Court in Belfast, who stole £34,000 and was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for three years;
÷ Stephen Coleman (37), from Columbia Street in Belfast, who stole £20,000 and was sentenced to 10 months in jail, suspended for two years;
÷ Stephen John McMurty (44), from Gainsborough Drive in Belfast, who stole £8,995, and was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for one year;
÷ Suzanne Harris (43), from East Way in Newtownabbey, who stole £6,975 and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service;
÷ Lyndsey Taggart (30), from West Circular Road in Belfast, who stole £12,724 and was sentenced to four months in jail, suspended for one year;
÷ Bronagh Close (31), from Rosnareen Avenue in Belfast, who stole £33,797 and was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for one year;
÷ Michael Gerard McCusker (47), from Colinmill in Dunmurry, who stole £15,000 and was sentenced to six months in jail suspended for two years;
÷ Mark Samuel McCullough (29), from Glencairn Pass in Belfast, who stole £15,000 and was sentenced to six months' jail, suspended for two years;
÷ Gary Brammeld (34), from Dalebrook Park in Belfast, who stole £15,500 and was sentenced to nine months in prison suspended for two years;
÷ William Flynn (21), of Lagmore Road in Dunmurry, who stole £11,625 and was given 100 hours' community service and a one-year probation order;
÷ Michael Patrick Kennan (28), from Kingsway in Dunmurry, who stole £16,718 and was sentenced to 200 hours of community service;
÷ John McCullough (29), from Riverview Meadows in Belfast, who stole £36,950 and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and given a one-year probation order.
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