A man who went missing for more than three years after being arrested over a £54,000 money laundering swindle has been spared jail.
The bank account of Andrew Staple, 33, was credited with huge sums of cash that had been illegally intercepted by an unknown criminal third party in an international diversion fraud.
The cash was transferred out of Staple’s account almost immediately after arriving, in one instance to an account in Nigeria, and never recovered, Devon Live reports.
Staple, who had no knowledge of the underlying fraud, helped himself to small sums before being arrested.
He admitted his part in the crime but did not show up for his sentencing back in 2018. Police finally caught up with him in March of this year and he appeared at Exeter Crown Court.
Staple, who is originally from London and now settled in North Devon, pleaded guilty to two offences of retaining a wrongful credit and one of absconding, offences dating back to December 2015.
Prosecutor Mr Herc Ashworth said on December 23 £14,457 was credited to Staple’s NatWest account. The money had originated from a company in Italy but was intercepted and diverted to Staple’s bank account before it could reach its legal destination.
Once in his account the funds were dispersed on the same day to three separate accounts, including the one in Nigeria.
Seven days later the fraud happened again. This time £39,443 was intercepted soon after leaving the account of a company in the Middle East. Once again the money was quickly moved from Staple’s bank to the same three accounts.
Mr Ashworth said large sums were also put in and taken out of Staple’s ex partner’s account, before being dispersed again.
Staple told police he had opened the account while serving time for robbery at HMP Belmarsh in May 2015.
He said he guessed the money came from some kind of fraud and had helped himself to some of it before it could be dispersed. This included £300 from a cashpoint.
The court was told the fraud must have been devised and carried out by other criminals but nobody else has been identified by police.
Ms Hollie Gilbery, defending, said Staple was a very different man than he was six years ago and no longer used drugs and alcohol.
She said he did not appear at court to be sentenced in 2018 because difficulties in his family life overtook him.
Recorder Mathew Turner said: “You must have known at least when the money went into your account on December 23 that it was fraudulently obtained and consented to the course of action.
“However there is no evidence that you had knowledge of what the underlying fraud was.”
Staple was jailed for 14 months, suspended for 12 months and told to do 200 hours of unpaid work.