A pregnant mum has appeared in court after she became tangled up in a £14,800 money laundering scam she spotted on a Snapchat advert.
Paris King, who was 22 at the time, was struggling financially when she spotted the online ad for a money lender appear on her social media account, Stoke-on-TrentLive reports.
She simply checked out their positive reviews and contacted the person directly, and they agreed to loan her £700.
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Paris had never taken a loan out before, but Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard the man then asked to meet her outside NatWest in Newcastle, where he told her to withdraw funds.
It transpired that thousands of pounds had been paid into her bank account, which had been meant for a Leeds-based construction firm. It was the final instalment from a householder, who was having building work done.
An email purporting to be from the firm had been hacked and the client had been asked to transfer the money to a different account for 'tax purposes'. But neither he nor the building company owner were aware the funds had been siphoned off. King's bank account was the 'mechanism' for the scam, the court heard.
Mark Brookes, prosecuting, said King, of High Grove Road, Trent Vale, tried to withdraw money from the bank as requested. Staff became suspicious and she was only able to get £750 from an ATM.
“The male asked her to go to a jeweller’s and buy a Rolex watch for £9,350,” he added.
The fraudster then pocketed this watch. Several other purchases were made from King’s account, although she denied knowing anything about them.
When the defendant was interviewed by police, she was asked if she had bought the Rolex under duress and replied ‘no’. Mr Brookes said she showed ‘limited awareness and understanding’ of the extent of the situation.
In a victim personal statement, the householder conned out of £14,822 said it had caused him significant stress. “The building project was well underway and could not be stopped,” he said.
The man has been unable to recover the lost funds. Meanwhile, the court was told the fraudster 'has not been brought to book'.
King, now aged 25 and the carer for her young child, pleaded guilty to entering into or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement between May 24 and May 30, 2018.
Debbie Leadbeater, mitigating, said it was ‘nothing’ the defendant did that resulted in the money being transferred to the ‘wrong place’.
“She has been used rather than anything else,” she added. “Young people use the internet for almost anything these days. This is a massive problem now.”
Describing the defendant as a ‘vulnerable’ young woman, Ms Leadbeater told the court: “She’s made efforts to work with the citizens’ advice bureau, sorting out the financial aspect of her life.”
Judge David Fletcher said King behaved ‘at the very best naïvely and at the worst foolishly’.
He added: “You would have thought alarm bells – indeed, the bells of St Paul’s – were ringing.”
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The judge sentenced her to a 12-month community order, with a requirement to complete 20 hours of a rehabilitation activity and 80 hours' unpaid work.
“Because of your parlous financial situation, there is no order for compensation,” he told her.