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Jail for money launderer who used Facebook to recruit young teenagers as money mules

A man has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for money laundering.

Michael Lanyuru, 24, of Milton Avenue, Newham, London pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation and one count of conspiracy to transfer criminal property at Inner London Crown Court on Monday, 8 October 2018.

He was sentenced at the same court on Monday (15 October 2018).

Money mules recruited via social media

A City of London Police investigation revealed Lanyuru had control of six Facebook accounts and an Instagram account he used in the recruitment of money mules.

A ‘money mule’ is an individual who allows their bank account to be used to move the proceeds of crime. Mules will usually be unaware of where the money comes from – fraud, scams, drugs, and other serious crime – or where it goes, but they are enticed by the opportunity to make quick cash with little to no effort.

Through social media Lanyuru would advertise for bank “card holders” aged “15+” and post videos showing large amounts of cash. When he had made contact with someone, he would often meet up with them in person. Lanyuru told one 15-year-old boy that if he handed over control of his bank account and allowed between £800 and £1000 to be paid through it, he would receive £300. Another 13-year-old boy was told he would receive £1000 for giving Lanyuru his bank card and PIN.

In total, nearly £36,500 was moved through different bank accounts belonging to 15 teenagers aged 13 to 19 years old between September 2015 and February 2017.

Overwhelming evidence

When he was arrested, Lanyuru was in possession of 13 bank cards which didn’t belong to him and had been used to money launder. His phone records showed he had been in communication with a number of the teenagers who owned these bank cards.

Images and videos which featured on a number of Facebook accounts used to recruit money mules were saved on Lanyuru’s laptops, iPad and iPhone and data showed him logging into those accounts from his home address on numerous occasions. A number of the videos also featured the bank cards Lanyuru was in possession of when he was arrested. One image showed a bank card specifically for under 18s and a receipt showing the account balance associated with that card as £49,905.88. The data also showed that he had logged into the online banking accounts of a number of the children he had recruited.

Further documents were discovered on Lanyuru’s electrical devices which showed him keeping a record of other people’s bank details including their name, address, date of birth, passwords, sort code, account number and PIN.

Illegal gains

It is believed that Lanyuru took a 20% cut of the money he was laundering through other people's accounts and police seized £6,380 in cash from his address.

Lanyuru was further charged with fraud by false representation when two of his own bank cards which he had reported as lost or stolen in order to fraudulently recoup money spent purchasing Euros were discovered at his home address. It is believed these offences cost the banks involved over £6,500.

Detective Constable Dominic Shaw, from the City of London Police said:

“In this case, Lanyuru recruited young teenagers who ultimately became involved in criminal activity without knowing the full consequences of their actions.

“These vulnerable individuals were incentivised by cash rewards for their involvement but it is likely that no such rewards were ever given. Lanyuru knew exactly what he was doing in targeting these individuals on social media and exploiting their naivety for his, and other criminals, financial gain.

“Money launderers are vital to criminal networks and in working to expose and disrupt these activities we will ultimately prevent very serious crimes from being committed.”

Money muling

According to Cifas, almost 11% more bank accounts that bear the hallmarks of money mule activity were identified in 2017 than in 2016 – equating to over 32,000 cases.

A rise in money mules shows that attempts to launder money through UK bank accounts continue to increase year-on-year.

What is particularly worrying is that criminals are increasingly preying on younger people. There was a 36% increase in the number of people aged 21-and-under that have been identified as carrying out this type of fraudulent conduct.

In 71% of cases identified in 2017, the mule account holder was male.

For more information on money muling including prevention tips and advice visit:

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