Man jailed for defrauding almost €30,000 from 18 international students

Man Jailed For Defrauding Almost €30,000 From 18 International Students
Raul Rodriguez Ramirez (36) used the money to invest in a restaurant business instead of booking courses for the students. Photo: Collins
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Fiona Ferguson

A man who defrauded almost €30,000 from 18 international students who wished to study at English language schools in Dublin has been jailed for nine months.

Raul Rodriguez Ramirez (36) was the owner of an agency specialising in facilitating students wishing to study at English language schools in Dublin. He used the money to invest in a restaurant business, which failed during the pandemic, instead of using it to directly book their courses.


Dublin Circuit Criminal Court previously heard that Ramirez set up the agency business in 2018, and until 2020, it had run legitimately, assisting international students in securing English language courses.

Ramirez, with an address of Stearne House, Patricks Street, Dublin 8, pleaded guilty to inducing 18 foreign language students to pay sums of money with intent to make a gain for himself on dates between June 2020 and June 2021. He has no previous convictions.

At a previous hearing the students outlined in victim impact statements how they were at a loss of between €1,100 and €3,800 each. Some students then had to pay the colleges again directly. The total amount involved was €29,042.

The court heard how not having a place secured at a college put the victims’ student visas at risk.


One student ended up sleeping in a church doorway for two nights and had no money for food as she was unable to work without a valid visa. Another had to pay for surgery herself as she was unable to get insurance when she was not registered with a college.

The court heard of the devastating psychological and emotional difficulties encountered by the students, most of whom were alone in the country and did not have good English.

The students described borrowing money from compatriots or relatives for food or rent.

One student described how they did not have enough money to travel to their home country to visit his mother before she died. He said he was shattered emotionally and psychologically by the events.


Imposing sentence on Thursday, Judge Orla Crowe said, “There were 18 injured parties and 18 charges in this case”. She said: “These students travelled a long distance to come here, and it only came to light when they found out they were not registered for a course”.

Judge Crowe noted the following mitigating factors: that Ramirez had paid €18,050 as a token of remorse to date, returned to Ireland by arrangement, made full admissions to the gardai when questioned, entered an early guilty plea, and has shown remorse.

The judge said the aggravating factors in this case were that there were 18 injured parties, that nearly €30,000 was taken from these injured parties and that the offending continued for an extended period of fifty-three weeks.

Judge Crowe said the custodial threshold had been passed and noted that the maximum sentence available to the court was five years on each count. She sentenced Ramirez to 18 months in prison on each count to run concurrently. Judge Crowe said in light of the token of remorse that Ramirez has paid she would suspend the final nine months of the sentence for two years.


The judge ordered that the €18,050 handed over by Ramirez be divided on a pro-rata basis among the 18 injured parties.

Detective Garda Paul Griffin told David Perry BL, prosecuting, at an earlier hearing that Ramirez, originally from Guadalajara in Mexico, set up an agency in 2018 with offices in Dublin and Mexico. The company acted as an intermediary between students and English schools in Dublin.

The company would get 20 to 30 per cent commission for each student placed in a course.

Gda Griffin said the company operated legitimately, employing four people, until 2020, when Ramirez began to take the payments from the 18 injured parties on a fraudulent basis.


The students contacted the agency in order to secure a college place and paid the fee requested by Ramirez by bank transfer or cash. They believed that they were then enrolled in a course.

Ramirez had told some of the students they were getting a “discount” if they paid quickly, and some described feeling pressured to make the payments. They received “contracts” by email.

The students' money was not used to secure their place on course, with many of them having to contact the colleges themselves to find out their fees had not been paid and they had no course.

The court heard some of the students attempted to contact Ramirez to find out what was happening. He stopped communicating with most students and told others he had spent the money but would return their money when he sold his business.

The students involved were from countries including Mexico, Bolivia, Japan and South Korea.

Gardaí became aware that Ramirez, who had returned to Mexico, was back in Ireland in October 2022 and contacted him. He came to speak to gardaí by arrangement.

Ramirez made full admissions during garda interview. He told the gardai he had established the agency in 2018, and as it was going well, he decided to open a Mexican restaurant. This did not do as well as expected and was impacted by the pandemic.

Ramirez said he took money from the agency to pay the restaurant bills. He then used money from later students to pay the college fees for earlier students already in the system.

Ramirez said he thought he would have enough time to get everyone’s money back. He said he had returned to Mexico with €50 in his pocket and had made efforts to raise money but was unsuccessful.

“I think the students think I took the money and went away,” he told gardaí, “but at the time, I lost everything.” “I feel bad as I did bad things and made bad decisions.”

Gda Griffin agreed with Keith Spencer BL, defending, that he did not believe Ramirez was intentionally “scamming” the students at the start.

Mr Spencer submitted that his client was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, and it all caught up.

The garda agreed with counsel that it would have been difficult to extradite Ramirez after he returned to Mexico. Gardai became aware he was travelling in Europe with a comedian friend, who was paying for the travel, and he made contact with gardai when requested.

He agreed Ramirez has remained in Ireland since his arrest and charge, relying on friends.

Mr Spencer submitted this was a case that would not have occurred if not for the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic and said it was against that backdrop the offences were committed.

He said Ramirez had been borrowing from one person to pay another, and when the pandemic went on for an extended time, he was unable to keep treading water. He said Ramirez was not making himself out to be a victim but was “in some shape or form” a victim of the pandemic.

Counsel said his client had an unblemished record until now. He said on his return to Mexico he had spent time in a mental health facility before travelling with his friend. He said he was not “living the high life.” He said Ramirez is deeply regretful and intends to put things right.

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Ramirez took the stand and made an apology to his 18 victims. He said it was not his intention to cause them problems and he was going to work hard to repay them.

He told the court he was unable to work in Ireland due to his visa but has some work organising music events in Mexico.

Mr Spencer had previously told the court that his client had €14,050 in court and was seeking further time to gather the balance to reimburse the students in full as “a gesture of remorse.” Mr Spencer said that the amount has increased to €18,050 on Thursday.

He told the court that the bulk of the money came from Ramirez’s father and the rest from friends. He said his client is in a difficult situation as his visa has expired and he cannot work.

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