‘Money mule’ mother weeps as she is spared prison sentence

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A mother of one who acted as a “money mule” by allowing her bank account to be used by criminals wept yesterday as she avoided an immediate prison sentence.

Karen Gilmore was given a six-month prison sentence which was suspended for two years after she admitted three charges dating back to November 2017.

The 39-year-old, from Crosslands Court in Belfast, pleaded guilty to acquiring criminal property, and to two counts of fraud by false representation.

Judge David McFarland told Gilmore she had been used as a “money mule” and said he accepted she had been used by “more sinister people”.

Prior to passing sentence, the judge heard submissions from both the Crown and defence.

Prosecuting barrister Kate McKay said that on January 22, 2018 a businessman from Co Durham contacted his bank to say £14,000 had been transferred from his account.

The businessman said he did not recognise the account the money had been transferred to, and that the transaction that was carried out on November 28, 2017 was unauthorised.

An investigation was launched and it emerged that the money had been transferred to two separate Ulster Bank accounts, one of which belonged to Gilmore. She then made two withdrawals of £3,500 from her account on November 29, 2017 “at the behest of the person using her bank account”.

Ms McKay said it was accepted Gilmore was not the “prime mover”, and revealed that during police interviews Gilmore said she was approached by a friend who asked her if she wanted to make a bit of extra money for Christmas.

Gilmore, who had a clear criminal record, also told police she willingly allowed her bank account to be used and was paid a couple of hundred pounds as “her cut”.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey said the person who approached Gilmore knew that at the time she was having financial difficulties, and as a result she was used as a “patsy”.

Mr McConkey said his client has never been in trouble before, was paid a “modest” amount for her involvement, and “was always going to get caught”.

The barrister branded the scam as unsophisticated and pointed out the court proceedings have been “hanging over her head” which has caused pressure and stress. He also told Judge McFarland that Gilmore made full admissions at interview and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

Gilmore wept as Judge McFarland told her: “There are criminals involved who will not expose themselves to risk, so they recruit people like you. You are easy prey for these criminals and you were always going to get caught.”