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8 months jail for Pinay used by FB boyfriend to launder $700k

24 June 2019

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina helper who opened two bank accounts that were used by her online boyfriend to funnel nearly $700,000 of illegally earned cash was sentenced today, Jun 24, to eight months in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of money laundering.

Jeannette V. Rodriguez, a 48-year-old mother of four, could not stop crying as the summary of the case against her was read in Eastern court before Magistrate Peter Law.

Magistrate said Rodriguez had no criminal intent but was a victim of an an internet romance that turned into a crime 
Rodriguez was charged with two counts of “dealing with property known or believed to be proceeds of indictable offence,” arising from cash transactions made using a Hang Seng Bank account she opened in 2017 and a Bank of China account opened last year.
The accounts had been used by a certain Mr Brown, who Rodriguez met on Facebook, as depository for money earned through illicit means. These included romance scams he perpetrated on four other women, whose nationalities were not disclosed, also through Facebook.

Rodriguez opened the first savings account with Hang Seng Bank on Apr 18, 2017 supposedly for the payment of her salary as a domestic worker.

But between Apr 27, 2017 and Jun 15, 2018, several cash deposits totaling $551,700.34 were made into the account.

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The rest of the money was deposited into the Bank of China account Rodriguez opened on Mar 16, 2018 and was in operation for only just over a month, or until Apr 26 that same year.

Between February and April 2018, the four women in Hong Kong reported they had fallen prey to online romance scams in which the culprit lured them into remitting a total of $140,300 and $15,900, respectively, into Rodriguez’s Hang Seng and BOC accounts.

It was not clear where the rest of the money deposited into her two accounts had come from.
All the money was withdrawn within days of being credited to the accounts.

Police arrested Rodriguez on Aug 6, 2018 at her home and investigated for six days regarding her Hang Seng account. She admitted to investigators that she owned and controlled the account but had done transactions on instructions of “Mr Brown”.

The defendant told police she had not met Mr Brown personally but that he had allowed her to keep $12,000 from a cash transfer of $100,000 to her account, on condition that she remitted the remaining $88,000 to an account in Taiwan.

A police search of her address yielded a remittance receipt dated Feb 28, 2018, for $88,000 that she sent to an account in Taiwan First Bank.

Rodriguez was questioned in October last year on other transactions that were found in her Hang Seng account but she refused to answer.

On Nov 16 last year, Rodriguez was arrested again for her BOC account transactions. She admitted owning that account which she said she opened because Hang Seng had suspended her other account. She refused to answer questions.

A total of $591,785.34 passed through the Hang Seng account over 14 months, between Apr 27, 2017 and Jun 15, 2018. The total amount involved in the first charge was $551,700.34, and $125,800.70 in the second charge.

Rodriguez was charged on Jan 15 this year and has been detained since then.

In mitigation, the defense lawyer said Rodriguez came to Hong Kong as a helper in 2012. Separated from her spouse, she was the breadwinner for her two daughters and two sons.

The lawyer said Rodriguez fell for Mr Brown although they had not met personally and followed his instructions because of the money that she received from the transactions which she sent to her children for their support.

“Money laundering is a serious offense, especially because of its international element,” Magistrate Law said.

But he noted that the defendant had no criminal intent but was merely drawn into an internet romance that turned into a crime.
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