Alcoholic found guilty of "cleaning'' pensioner's life savings jailed for a year

Burnley Crown Court

Burnley Crown Court

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A woman who " cleaned" a vulnerable pensioner's £9,000 life savings, taken in a nationwide internet banking scam, has been jailed for a year.

Alcoholic Sarah Burrows,( 34) allowed her bank account to be used to launder the victim's money, which she then handed over to others, a court was told.

Burrows had denied money laundering, claiming she knew nothing of the actual fraud, but a jury didn't believe her explanation and a judge said he didn't either.

Burnley Crown Court heard the victim, who lives in Somerset and is a carer for her husband who suffers from dementia, had been left distraught by what happened. She told the police :" Obviously, life is difficult enough without the added stress of somebody talking me out of my money."

The defendant, of Grange Street, Burnley, had been convicted of the allegation after a recent trial.

Prosecutor Judith McCullough told the court the victim had had sleepless nights for several months after the offence and had tried to put on a brave face and get on with life. She said in her impact statement that she had closed down her online banking, didn't trust people the same and was now very cautious of phone calls, especially from withheld numbers. Miss McCullough added the defendant had no relevant previous convictions.

James Heyworth, for Burrows, said the " real masterminds" behind the original fraud were not, he believed, brought to justice.

He said of the defendant :" She performed a limited function under the direction of others. She was taken to the bank and she passed them the money. It was somewhat out of character for her. It was an opportunistic one-off offence."

Mr Heyworth continued : She, being alcohol- dependent, was to some extent easily persuaded to pass this money through her account. She didn't question it. She had no involvement in the original fraud. She was complicit in allowing the money to be cleaned through her bank account."

The barrister said Burrows had no previous convictions for dishonesty and had probably got little or no remuneration for what she did. He added :" She has a rather chaotic lifestyle. Unfortunately, most of her daily routine involves drink. She has never been to custody before."

Recorder Howard Bentham, QC, said he thought the defendant played a significant role. He continued :' I do not believe she was simply brought in at the last minute, unknowing what has gone on before."

The judge told Burrows :" If you combined with others to commit a crime you are responsible for the whole effects of that crime. The jury rejected your explanation. You were a knowing participant in this serious crime."

Recorder Bentham continued:" This was a countrywide fraud, stretching from Glasgow, through Burnley, to Somerset. It was carefully planned, the bank account was selected, three or four people were involved and it was a complicated operation."

He added :" The effect on the elderly victim has been profound. A term of immediate imprisonment is demanded."