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DH admits money laundering, overstaying charges

09 September 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao
The accused admitted lending her ATM to a scammer she hardly knew

An overstaying Filipina domestic helper has admitted lending her ATM card to another woman who duped would-be flat tenants of nearly $53,000 in a rental scam.

A.L. Cabancan, 39, pleaded guilty today, Sept. 9 to a charge of conspiring to commit money laundering and another of breaching her condition of stay by overstaying her visa for nearly a year.

Magistrate Bina Chainrai remanded her in custody and adjourned the sentencing to Sept 23.
Cabanban was a former helper who was fired by her employer on Apr 9 last year but remained in Hong Kong illegally after her 14-day visa extension lapsed on Apr 23.

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She admitted to having lent her ATM card, along with its password, to a friend named Myla who paid her $3,000, but said she knew nothing about the huge amounts of cash transactions in the account. 

The prosecutor said the Filipina was arrested on Apr 17 this year at the Skyline Tower Immigration office in Kowloon Bay, but her lawyer said in mitigation that she went to the office purposely to give herself up. She has been detained since.

Cabanban was initially charged on Apr 20 with two counts of obtaining property by deception in Kowloon City Court after police investigating the rental scam that duped two men of $35,000 in total traced a bank account used in the deception to her.

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The charge said Lee Hok-bun, a Chinese, and Rupert Nicholas Bickmore, a Briton, replied separately in January 2019 to an online advertisement of a flat for rent in Central.

They called a Whatsapp number given in the ad and a person who replied told them to put $14,000 and $21,000, respectively, to a Bank of China account as rental deposit. The person later required a further deposit of one month’s rent, but they didn’t do so. They lost contact with the person afterwards, so they reported to police.

Officers who contacted BOC found that including the $35,000 from the two men, other deposits were made to the account that a total of $52,770 had passed through it between Oct 23 last year and Jan 28 this year.

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All the money was withdrawn on 12 occasions on the dates the deposits were made.
The prosecution said Cabanban was earning a monthly salary of $4,000, but the bank records did not suggest that the account had been used for receiving her salary.

In mitigation, the defense lawyer said Cabanban was married but had separated from her husband in 2011. She used to send $2,000 to the Philippines to support her two children, a daughter aged 17 and a son aged 7.

The lawyer said his client’s only participation in the offense was to lend her bank account to a stranger in exchange for $3,000.

Cabanban overstayed because she wanted to find a new employer after losing her job prematurely, said the lawyer.

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