Mum laundered £7,500

Burnley Magistrates' Court
Burnley Magistrates' Court

A young mum opened a bank account for a friend to launder £7,500, but claimed she thought the cash was an inheritance, a court heard.

Burnley Crown Court was told Charlotte Lawson, then a jobless cannabis user, obtained the account specifically to receive the cash and was given £700. She didn’t know the money had been taken from a 43-year-old woman duped in a phone scam, but knew it was suspect.

The hearing was told the victim had been called by someone purporting to be from her bank. She was told there was a problem with fraud on her account and to transfer her cash into another one. She later realised she had been defrauded.

The money was paid into Lawson’s account which had been opened just two weeks before the victim was targeted in September, 2014 and which was not used again.

The hearing was told when she was interviewed, the defendant said she had £3,000 in the bank from a whiplash claim and had opened the account as she didn’t want to affect her benefits.

Mother-of-one Lawson, who was 20 at the time and is now 23 and eight months pregnant, was spared jail, after admitting possessing criminal property.

The defendant, of Hibson Road, Nelson, was given 20 weeks in prison, suspended for a year. Judge Beverley Lunt said the victim, who probably wouldn’t have got her money back, could sue in the civil court for its return if she wished.

Prosecutor Joseph Allman told the court when the victim was told by the caller to transfer the money, she had difficulty doing so online. The prosecutor continued: “He told her that was probably because criminals were trying to access her account at the time. He kept asking her ‘have you done it yet?’.”

Mr Allman said when the defendant was interviewed, she gave a man’s name: “She explained he had prevailed on her to use her account to allow him to transfer some funds, as he put it, from an uncle in Pakistan.”

Mr Allman said the account was opened in August, 2014. He said: “The Crown’s case is the account was opened purely for the purpose of receiving these funds.” The prosecutor added the man Lawson named was found, interviewed, answered no comment to all questions and no further action was taken against him.

Umar Shahzad, defending, said Lawson had been advised by the friend the money was an inheritance coming through a relative.

The barrister continued: “She was very naive and she trusted him. She didn’t question him much, which she regrets now. She had known him since the age of 15. He assured her the money was from a legitimate source. He even accompanied her to the bank as well to withdraw the money. She thought it was a genuine person and she was doing a favour for him. She thought there was nothing untoward.”

Mr Shahzad said Lawson had been advised she was in slow labour and the baby could be born at any time. The barrister continued: “She was disgusted when she found out where the money had come from.

“She wasn’t aware the money was coming from the victim. At first she resisted, but then she was persuaded and she gave in, but at the time she was unemployed. She did use cannabis and she used to drink, but since this offence she has turned her life around.”

Judge Beverley Lunt said there was a lot of planning in the scheme as a whole, Lawson thought what she did through as she didn’t want her benefits affecting and she produced documentation to the bank. Sentencing, she said she “didn’t accept for one second” that the defendant thought the money was legitimate.

The judge continued: “Of course you knew it was suspect. You didn’t know it was from this lady, there is no evidence of that. You didn’t care. You were prepared to act dishonestly and you did. You have put your future at risk for about £700.”

Judge Lunt added: “The other thing I cannot ignore is the fact you have had this hanging over you for over two years. That’s a long time and I know you have been worried for the past four weeks because I warned you I would send you to prison.”