Social media influencer waits sentencing over invoice payment scam

ireland
Social Media Influencer Waits Sentencing Over Invoice Payment Scam
Karine Lawani (22) of Foxbororough Road, Lucan, Co. Dublin. Over €5,000 was transferred into her Permanent TSB bank account on February 11th, 2020. Photo: Collins
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Tom Tuite

A model and social media influencer is awaiting sentence after her bank account was used for the transfer of crime proceeds from an invoice payment scam.

Karine Lawani (22) a psychology student, with an address at Foxborough Road, Lucan, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to money laundering after “naively” offering help to a man on Snapchat who needed an account.

Detective Garda John Saunderson told Dublin District Court that €5,430 was transferred into Lawani’s Permanent TSB bank account on February 11th, 2020.

A Waterford-based firm had earlier received an email purporting to be from a supplier seeking payment of an invoice. The firm transferred the money as instructed and on the same date there were two withdrawals from Lawani’s account.

Gardaí obtained CCTV evidence showing an “unknown male withdrawing €1,500 from the account” at an ATM in the Liffey Valley shopping centre.

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Lawani took out €3,200 from a bank machine on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. Two days later €700 was withdrawn.

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Detective Garda Saunderson said Lawani was arrested and interviewed in January. She claimed she saw a Snapchat message from a man looking for a Permanent TSB account so he could receive a payment from someone else with an account with the same bank.

The detective agreed with Karla Ray BL, defending, that Lawani was co-operative; she identified herself on the CCTV footage and acknowledged it was her account.

When it was put to her in her Garda interview that she allowed it to be used for the transfer of stolen money, she replied: “I unknowingly allowed it, if I had known, I wouldn’t have.”

The bank was left at a loss not the company, the court heard.

Counsel said that Lawani, who is expecting a child, had written a letter of apology which was handed in to court along with one from her partner.

She had completed a degree in psychology and hoped to do a Master’s course so she can become a prison therapist to help unfortunate members of society.

She had also worked for a charity and there was a reference from her church pastor attesting to her good character and engagement in the community.

Ms Ray said Lawani’s partner described her as happy to inconvenience herself to support others.

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Lawani now lives in the UK and works as a model. She is also a social media influencer and has “a large online profile” with “many of friends who are not friends in real life”.

The barrister said her client interacted stupidly and naively due to her desire to help out over a simple bank transfer.

The court was told she was extremely remorseful and embarrassed and wanted to pay the money back but it could take some months.

Judge Bryan Smyth said the court will not finalise the matter until that has been done and “all options are open as regards sentencing”.
He also asked for a probation report on Lawani who was ordered to appear again in October.

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