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‘Money mule’ steals $23,500 out of woman’s account – heads to Hamilton casino

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Mackara Patrick Chourb, who now lives and works in Auckland, spent all the money the same day he stole it, mostly at SkyCity Hamilton, pictured. Photo / Belinda Feek

A man acting as a “money mule” siphoned $23,500 out of a woman’s account before making cash withdrawals and spending up large at a casino.

While it’s unclear who Mackara Patrick Chourb was acting as a money mule for, court documents reveal that once he took the money out of the unsuspecting victim’s account, the 29-year-old went straight to Hamilton’s Sky City Casino.

Chourb, who now lives and works in Auckland, spent all the money the same day he received it, while the victim had to wait a year to get the bank to pay her back.

A money mule is a person recruited to transfer money, being the proceeds of crime, between bank accounts.

It’s either done in person or electronically in order to conceal the nature of the transaction and evade detection.

The mule is typically paid for the service with a small part of the money.

Since January 2018, police have received “numerous” complaints from Kiwi banks and telecommunication [telco] companies regarding a sophisticated scam involving money mules.

The scam sees a victim’s bank and telco accounts getting “compromised”, before money is then transferred into the mule’s account where it’s concealed through the withdrawal of cash or further movement into other bank accounts.

More than $1 million has been lost by banks to money mules which helps offenders move more proceeds of crime through the banking system, making them complicit in money laundering.

‘Bill payment’

On November 5, 2020, the female victim noticed that $23,500 had been transferred from her ANZ account to an unknown account.

All she was left with was the note on the transaction stating “Bill payment”.

She then realised she’d been hacked.

Police discovered the unknown account belonged to Chourb and it was closed by ANZ on January 18, 2021.

It detailed four transactions from November 5, 2020; a $10,000 cash withdrawal from ANZ Victoria St, Hamilton, a $10,000 Eftpos purchase at Skycity Hamilton, a further $2000 cash withdrawal from SkyCity, and a $1500 transfer to an account named C R T McGregor-Jones.

When spoken to by police, Chourb said, “I didn’t know it was that much.

“My mate told me he needed to get it out for a car, maybe $18,000, but his bank wouldn’t let him get it out.”

In her statement, the victim said the theft had been “very stressful” as it had taken a year for her to get reimbursed by her bank.

She had put the money aside at the time to buy a property.

‘Keen for him to keep his job’

Judge Ajit Swaran Singh said while a pre-sentence report recommended home detention, he would rather Chourb keep his job so he can pay some emotional harm reparation to the victim.

“Keeping a job is very important because he’s going to have reparation to be paid,” the judge told Chourb’s counsel, Jarom Keung.

“I would like him to keep his job.”

The judge initially considered awarding it to the bank, but Keung noted how long that would take with his client’s ability to pay $50 per week.

Keung instead suggested a nominal amount which the judge agreed with.

On one charge of engaging in a money laundering transaction, Judge Swaran Singh sentenced Chourb to six months’ community detention, nine months’ supervision and ordered he pay $750 emotional harm reparation at $50 per week.

He handed Chourb a curfew of 9pm to 6am to allow him to continue attending his night-time Level 3 mechanics course.

Belinda Feek is an Open Justice reporter based in Waikato. She has worked at NZME for nine years and has been a journalist for 20.

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