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Mother jailed for money laundering

A mother of four who plundered nearly $100,000 from a drugs money stash has been jailed.

Laurell Steede, of Pembroke, overheard two drug dealers talking about where they had hidden their money and then stole the cash herself.

Steede used the funds to finance trips abroad, shopping sprees and clothing for herself and her children.

Yesterday, the 39-year-old was jailed for 18 months at Supreme Court after admitting money laundering.

Prosecutor Larissa Burgess told the court that Steede was arrested as a result of a wider investigation into a number of individuals who were linked through “familial ties”.

“Part of the investigation caused police to analyse banking and immigration data in relation to the defendant,” said Ms Burgess.

“Once the data was reviewed against the general income of the defendant it was determined that she was living beyond her natural means.

“Investigations revealed she was employed as a housemaid with a maximum basic pay of $27.50 per hour.

“It was also revealed the defendant had an extensive travel history, with 25 overseas trips between 2006 and 2011 with nine of those trips in 2009 alone.”

Steede was arrested on October 3, 2012 and told police she found the funds on Pig's Field in Pembroke after overhearing a conversation between two drugs dealers about where they hid their profits. She went on to steal $97,382 from the money stash without telling anyone and used it for her own benefit.

Ms Burgess told the court Steede took friends on shopping sprees with the cash as well as “car rentals and alike”.

When she was interviewed Steede said she initially planned to move overseas with the money and never return to Bermuda.

Ms Burgess added: “She would go to the bank regularly and in some instances, several times a day exchanged Bermuda currency for US currency.

“She was aware of detection methods utilised by the bank and the possibility of being questioned and she conducted these transactions at several different bank branches of HSBC Bermuda.

“She indicated that she completed the transactions in this way as she did not think anyone would catch on.

“The defendant admitted she knew not to make single transactions greater than $5,000 as this would look suspicious. The defendant also admitted that in changing the cash she would furnish plane tickets to support the need for US cash indicating that she would say she was travelling or give other satisfactory explanations which were not truthful such as purchasing her children's clothes or for overseas lawyer fees.

“This activity took place over various dates between June 2007 and May 2009.”

Yesterday, as she was sentenced Steede apologised for her actions.

Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons imposed a sentence of 18 months' imprisonment followed by 18 months' probation.

She said: “You must have turned a blind eye to the real probability that if and when you were caught you would be sentenced to imprisonment. Clearly you need to learn some respect for the law.”

• It is The Royal Gazette's policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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Published August 14, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 14, 2015 at 3:01 am)

Mother jailed for money laundering

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