Stephen Nolan scammer John Cartmill linked to £1m bank fraud
Belfast swindler recruits middle-men including ex-Cliftonville player
A serial fraudster who once swindled £50,000 from TV stars Eamonn Holmes and Stephen Nolan is at the centre of a massive 'money mule' police probe into the theft of more than £1m.
Sunday Life can reveal that detectives investigating more than 200 cases throughout Northern Ireland have linked many of them to career criminal John 'Jay' Cartmill.
Cops suspect he is masterminding the scam that sees thousands of pounds stolen from illegally accessed bank accounts moved to other accounts in the names of 'money mules'.
The mules then withdraw the cash, keeping 25%, with the rest going to Cartmill who uses several middle-men including an ex-Cliftonville footballer to sweet-talk them into taking part.
When Sunday Life called at the con-artist's west Belfast home on Friday, his long-term partner told our reporter he was not inside.
We explained how he is being linked to the £1m money-mule racket and offered a right of reply, which he did not take.
Cartmill - who has more than 100 convictions for fraud totalling more than £500,000 - is suspected of laundering the stolen cash through several pub restaurants. Detectives are also probing how the compulsive liar can afford his lavish lifestyle that includes expensive trips to the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights and Champagne helicopter flights.
Terrified of going to jail again, he adopts a hands-off approach, paying several middle-men to recruit desperate money mules who they dupe into agreeing to have criminal cash transferred to their bank accounts which they then withdraw.
Among these 'recruiters' is an ex-Cliftonville footballer, who cannot be named at this stage for legal reasons.
But one of his greedy middle-men who can be identified is west Belfast pensioner Paddy Manning, who has been convicted of running scams on both sides of the border which cops suspect are linked to Cartmill.
He was given a nine-month prison sentence suspended for three years in October after pleading guilty to acquiring and converting criminal property.
This followed on from a three-year suspended jail term handed down by a Dublin court in January 2018 for credit card fraud.
Manning recruited a gang of mules who toured bureaux de change, withdrawing cash stolen electronically from victims' bank accounts and transferred into their own.
The 72-year-old even got involved in the theft himself, illegally withdrawing £10,000 in Northern Ireland and £50,000 in the south.
During both his sentencing hearings, reference was made to how the "main organiser of the fraud" and the "main man" was not before the courts.
Senior security sources have told Sunday Life that this individual is notorious conman Jay Cartmill.
After Manning was convicted, the fraudster brought on board an ex-Cliftonville player to act as his new money-mule recruiter.
He works hand-in-hand with a Belfast man involved in the local snooker scene, duping penniless men and women into handing over their bank account details for stolen money transfers.
This newspaper understands that the snooker player recruited five close family members into allowing £135,000 to be moved into their bank accounts. Each of them is now facing prosecution.
At a court hearing last month into the scam, which is among the biggest fraud investigations ever seen in Northern Ireland, an officer from the PSNI's Economic Crime Unit revealed 215 cases are being probed.
Judge Neil Rafferty confirmed that 75 of these have either been dealt with or are going through the court system. He ordered that a 'super hearing' be held on January 16 at which police will reveal the full scale of the problem.
Giving evidence, Detective Sergeant Reid said that police are "seeing clusters of people involved, who are often related and recruited by a mule-herder".
He also revealed that the stolen transfers never total more than £10,000 as this would activate a bank's money laundering reporting requirements and anti-fraud investigators.
As an example, DS Reid said that if £200,000 were to be taken from a victim's account, it would be moved into 20 money mule accounts in blocks of £10,000.
The racket would not be possible without inside information from unscrupulous financial service employees who sell the account details of vulnerable customers to fraudsters like Jay Cartmill.
Often the target is someone elderly or seriously ill whose account has been dormant for some time and who would not notice their cash is missing because they do not use online banking. Once in possession of these details, the scammer needs to find legitimate bank accounts to transfer the stolen cash.
This is where 'recruiters' or 'mule-herders' like Paddy Manning, the ex-Cliftonville footballer and the snooker player come in. For a fee they target people who they know are skint, offering them up to 25% of the transfer, and instructing them to withdraw it via a bureau de change.
Sunday Life is aware of one west Belfast pub in which around 40 'money mules' have been recruited.
Among those convicted of allowing their bank accounts to be used by Cartmill's middle-men are Louise Branney, who last month was handed an 18-month prison sentence suspended for three years. The 34-year-old allowed £10,000 to be deposited in her account which she withdrew in instalments.
Another 'money mule' was Anthony McCool from the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast, who in June had a 15-month jail sentence suspended for two years. The 32-year-old former car mechanic had £4,000 transferred into his bank account from a victim who lost £85,500 in total.
A third mule convicted in August was west Belfast woman Karen Gilmore, who admitted a £7,000 fraud.
The 39-year-old had her six-month jail term suspended for two years after a judge accepted she had been used by "more sinister people". Security sources told Sunday Life that this was again a reference to Jay Cartmill, who despite knowing that he is at the centre of a £1m fraud probe continues his criminal activities unabated.
As well as having business interests in at least two restaurants and two barber shops, the fraudster is also believed to have property abroad.
He has even boasted to other criminals of purchasing gold bars via an accountant friend which are being held in safety deposit boxes in Dubai.
Paranoid about his movements being known, Cartmill has a taxi driver who he pays to ferry him around Belfast. The scale of the 'money mule' fraud being probed by PSNI has had a dramatic knock-on effect on the nature of crime in Northern Ireland.
When Louise Branney was sentenced last month, Judge Neil Rafferty said statistics showed armed robberies and cash-in-transit raids had fallen significantly.
He added that the risks were too high for criminals who have instead turned their attentions to 'money mule' rackets.
This is something Jay Cartmill likes to boast about to his recruiters.
Criminal sources claim one of his key lines is: "Why risk 10 years in jail for robbery, when you can steal the same amount with a bank transfer, and if caught you will only get a suspended sentence?"
What is kept from Cartmill's mules is that they will be eventually caught, end up with a criminal record and an abysmal credit rating - and that their victims are usually the sick and elderly.
All that comes while he uses the stolen cash to travel the world enjoying luxury Champagne-filled flights at their expense.