A DIVORCED mum’s dreams of finding love online were shattered when she found herself caught-up in a money laundering scheme.
A man who called himself ‘Lucas Davis’, who Anne Jacobsen met on a dating website, talked her into setting up bank accounts in her name to deposit a total of $24,090.
Ipswich District Court heard that the money had been received by other people under false pretences.
Crown prosecutor Amanda Robinson said it was accepted that Jacobsen was not knowingly involved and personally made only $200 from the scheme.
Jacobsen’s barrister Daniel Boddice said she knew “it was all too good to be true” but was simply taken advantage of.
Anne Marrie Jacobsen, 50, from Silkstone, pleaded guilty to one charge of recklessly engaging in money laundering at Ipswich or elsewhere between February 26, 2019 and February 4, 2020.
Ms Robinson said Jacobsen met Lucas Davis on a dating website which was not named in court.
“At his behest she opened numerous bank accounts with banking institutions,” Ms Robinson said.
“Seven payments totalling $24,090 were made.
“She received the payments under false pretences.
“She withdrew money in accordance to instructions from Mr Davis. She received approximately $200 to allow her bank accounts to be used.
“It was received due to the fraudulent conduct of others. There were victims.
“She received minuscule benefit.”
Only this general outline of Crown facts was read onto the public record in the open court before Queensland’s Chief Judge Brian Devereaux SC.
The court heard Jacobsen had no criminal history.
Ms Robinson referred Chief Judge Devereaux to a paragraph in her written prosecution submission where the victim (not named in court) “has requested as restitution the amount of money he paid into the bank account”.
“It would seem it would be open to order restitution. She is not in the position to pay money as she is on Centrelink,” Ms Robinson said.
“She wasn’t responsible for the fraudulent behaviour.”
Chief Judge Devereaux said that strictly speaking each accused person “is liable for the whole amount”.
“Has the other person known as Davis been detected,” Chief Judge Devereaux asked the prosecutor.
Ms Robinson said there did not seem to be any charges.
“Is it known whether such a person is known in Queensland,” Chief Judge Devereaux asked.
Ms Robinson said she did not know but the case should be classified as being serious, and with a strong need for deterrence.
“Yes, as such offences facilitate other serious offending. In this case people have been defrauded,” Chief Judge Devereaux said.
Defence barrister Daniel Boddice said Jacobsen had been “vulnerable to manipulation by Mr Davis”.
“At the time of first contact on the dating website she was going through a divorce in 2017, and her mother had just passed,” Mr Boddice said.
“Mr Davis took advantage of her. She knew it was all too good to be true.”
“What do you mean by too good to be true,” Chief Judge Devereaux asked.
“She should have been suspicious about where all the money was coming from,” Mr Boddice replied.
He said Jacobsen was now receiving Centrelink unemployment benefits, and residing in a motel while paying rent.
Mr Boddice sought a suspended jail term.
Chief Judge Devereaux then sought more Crown facts of the case, asking Ms Robinson to please explain to him how the money went her into her bank accounts.
“As I understand it she used the money to buy gift cards,” Ms Robinson said.
Mr Boddice then turned and spoke to Jacobsen, who was seated in the dock, to get more facts from the defendant.
“Sometimes she would transfer money, or put it to gift cards and give the details to Mr Davis,” Mr Boddice said.
“It doesn’t say that in the (written) Crown facts,” Chief Judge Devereaux said.
“I interpret the withdrawals to mean withdrawing and transferring to other accounts,” Mr Boddice said.
“So how did she purchase gift cards. How did she physically give it to him,” Chief Judge Devereaux asked.
Mr Boddice said the gift cards apparently had an identification number, which was revealed when scratched.
This number was sent to Mr Davis who would then use the gift card details in an electronic form.
Chief Judge Devereaux said the charge of recklessly laundering money carried a maximum jail term of 10 years.
“It is very serious as it assists criminals. The circumstances of your case are a little unusual,” he said.
“According to agreed facts you came across Lucas Davis on an online dating service and he asks you to open bank accounts and you did.
“The banks contacted you to tell you there had been fraudulent activity.
“You received seven payments with $24,090 in total.”
He said that because of the circumstances he was not satisfied that he should make a restitution order against her, in that the court had been told that Jacobsen had been manipulated when in a vulnerable position.
He said she had no criminal history, co-operated with the police investigation, and gained very little from her offending.
Jacobsen was sentenced to a 12-month jail order, immediately suspended for 18 months.