Woman groomed to launder $200k around the world
A JUDGE has sympathised with a woman who was used as a "dupe" by a man she met on a dating site to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars around the world.
Ruth Irene McLeod, 50, appeared before the Townsville District Court, where she pleaded guilty to recklessly dealing in proceeds of crime worth $100,000 or more.
The court heard McLeod connected with a man on dating site Zoosk.
Defence barrister Madonna Hayes told the court over the three to four months the pair talked, the man professed his love for her and she developed feelings for him.
McLeod told police she woke one morning to a message from the man telling her to check her bank account.
The court heard $215,600 had been transferred into her account that had been fraudulently obtained from a business on October 9, 2018.
Crown prosecutor Catherine Ferguson told the court the man asked McLeod to transfer the money around the world for debts he owed.
Ms Ferguson said McLeod made six transactions, including to bank accounts in South Africa, Australia and the United Arab Emirates, on October 10 and 11, 2018.
Once McLeod became suspicious of the requests, she questioned the man but he made threats against her and her teenage daughter.
The court heard the bank contacted McLeod in relation to the deposited money and advised her to cut contact with the man.
Out of the $215,600, $36,100 was recovered by the Commonwealth Bank.
McLeod maintained she never gave the man her bank account details and had received a pop-up notification on her computer asking her to confirm her bank account number.
Ms Hayes said her client was a mother of three and described her as "caring" and "naive", "used and abused" by a man she trusted.
"She initially thought nothing of assisting this person. She genuinely wanted to help and she believed this person to be someone who loved her," she said.
In a psychologist's report presented to the court, McLeod confessed, "she was caught up in a bubble".
"I didn't even think I saw it as illegal; he just groomed me so well I couldn't see outside of it all," she said.
The court heard she only benefited by $500 for transferring the money.
Judge John Coker described McLeod's involvement in the money laundering as "concerning" but acknowledged she was "at the bottom of the totem pole".
"You were the dupe, you were the person who would take the rap, as you do for the illegal activities of others," he said. "It is tragic you find yourself facing such a serious charge."
Judge Coker sentenced McLeod to two and a half years' jail to be released forthwith.
A $2000 recognisance was issued with a good behaviour period of three years. Convictions were recorded.
Originally published as Local mum groomed to launder $200,00 around the world