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Cheryl Goodenough

Money mule jailed over identity theft scam

A man has been jailed for his role in a syndicate using stolen identities to obtain bank cards. (Stephanie Flack/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

A man who was part of a syndicate that stole identities before laundering millions of dollars through jewellers and a coffee shop left his fingerprints on a book with 71 pages of handwritten notes.

Karthik Pappu was identified by police investigating a cold calling scheme in which victims provided offenders with access to their computers before being tricked out of money, a Brisbane court was told on Wednesday.

The now 36-year-old admitted being part of the group that transferred money into accounts they opened using the details of 190 identity theft victims.

Money mules like Pappu swiped bank cards associated with the accounts or conducted Apple Pay transactions at two jewellers and a coffee shop in Brisbane, but received no goods or services.

After the businesses received the funds, money - excluding a 20 per cent cut - was delivered to syndicate members.

Pappu was also involved in that aspect, once collecting $15,000 cash and delivering it to a Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, property on the instruction of syndicate members in India.

Detectives found Pappu's fingerprints on a book containing 71 pages of handwritten notes with information about 305 bank accounts and 68 compromised identities.

There were also phone SIM cards stuck in the book and photos of them on Pappu's mobile.

In February 2021 Pappu made a credit card application pretending to be a person whose identity had been stolen.

After setting up Apple Pay linked to the National Australia Bank account a $7000 transaction was conducted at one of the jewellers.

Chief Judge Brian Devereaux said Pappu could be linked to the laundering of $562,490, but it was impossible to determine how much he made.

The total amount laundered by the syndicate during the 12-and-a-half months Pappu was involved was about $2.685 million.

Judge Devereaux said Pappu's guilty plea saved the state significant time and resources as the prosecutors gave an "optimistic" estimate a trial would have taken three weeks.

Pappu was "not at the helm" of the operation, but in the middle, active in most stages, Judge Devereaux added.

He answered to syndicate members overseas, but also directed others in Australia and once sent a summary of the day's transactions to another person.

Pappu was not involved in setting up the operation, but had been approached by acquaintances while working in Brisbane as a cook.

Judge Devereaux said without Pappu's plea of guilty to one charge of money laundering his role in the syndicate's operations would call for a sentence of eight to 10 years.

"Because of your plea of guilty ... the sentence is six years' imprisonment," he told Pappu.

The Indian national, who first came to Australia to study in 2005, then returned later before moving to Brisbane in 2018, is set to be deported after serving the time behind bars.

He will be eligible for parole on June 22 next year, after having been in custody for 462 days including 20 in the Brisbane watch house after his arrest in June 2020.

He is the first of four co-accused to have his case finalised.

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