A young financial services worker who spotted a technical glitch in an online banking system and manipulated it to steal almost €25,000 has been given a three year suspended sentence.
Prince Joseph Ncube (24) was working in a separate financial institution in April 2017 when he became aware of a way to manipulate Bank of Ireland’s online banking system allowing him to create what are termed notional credits in his own bank account.
He opened up four deposit accounts in April 2017 which allowed him to transfer the funds between the various accounts to facilitate the theft.
Detective Garda Shane Fitzsimons told John Byrne BL, prosecuting, that the crime involved Ncube “exploiting a sequencing and timing anomaly” within the online banking system and began with him transferring €48 from one account to two separate accounts using two separate devices.
This then created a notional credit in one of the accounts meaning that it was credited to the tune of €48 even though the cash was not actually in the account. Ncube then transferred this €48 to another account again, creating more notional credits and thereby doubling the initial €48 to €96.
He continued in this manner, completing a large number of transfers between his bank accounts over a short period, until he had built up a notional credit balance in excess of €24,500.
Det Gda Fitzsimons agreed that Ncube only managed to withdraw €14,500 in cash before the bank became suspicious and the account was frozen. It was examined by a senior fraud investigator with Bank of Ireland and €10,000 was recovered.
The gardaí were alerted in May 2017 and the bank provided officers with the documentation used to open the four deposit accounts the previous month. This led to Ncube being identified as a suspect and his arrest. He made limited admissions during subsequent garda interviews.
Ncube of Parnell Green, Ladyswell Road, Mulhuddart, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft from Bank of Ireland in April 2017. He has two previous convictions for road traffic offences but has not come to garda attention since.
Det Gda Fitzsimons agreed that given the sophisticated nature of the fraud Ncube’s plea of guilty was valuable to the prosecution of the case.
He accepted a suggestion from Oisín Clarke BL, defending, that his client claims he gave the money he stole to “a third party” but he said he was not in a position to dispute this claim.
Judge Martin Nolan said Ncube was a “a bright young man who spotted a gap and exploited this gap by stealing” before he described it as “a complicated and sophisticated way to steal”.
He accepted Ncube’s admissions, lack of relevant convictions, education and work history before he handed down a three-year sentence which he suspended in full on condition that Ncube pay €14,500 to the investigating garda for onward transmission to Bank of Ireland within six months.
Mr Clarke told Judge Nolan that his client was from a hard-working family and was currently working himself while studying part-time for a certificate in Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Manufacturing in Tallaght Institute of Technology.
A letter from his mother and himself expressed his remorse and their disappointment in his behaviour. He had €7,000 in court which he had borrowed from his mother to compensate the bank and counsel said if he was given a number of weeks he would be able to get together the balance of €7,500.
“His youth didn’t allow him to think through the consequences of his actions at the time,” Mr Clarke said, reminding Judge Nolan that his client was 20 years old at the time of the offence.
“He was a very young man who did a very stupid thing but he has seemingly put it behind him,” counsel said before he suggested that he didn’t think it would benefit society to have Ncube in custody.
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