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American woman jailed for money laundering

A US citizen has been jailed for 18 months for money laundering after being caught with more than $40,000 of hidden cash.

Zoe Bennett, 24, from New York, was found guilty by a jury of conspiring to remove criminal property from Bermuda.

The court had heard that she was caught carrying $40,870 American and $100 Canadian on August 4 last year.

During a sentencing hearing yesterday, prosecutor Alan Richards called for a sentence of two years behind bars, noting in her favour that Bennett had no previous convictions.

But, while he said she may have been on the lower end of the conspiracy, the jury found she had knowingly agreed to unlawfully remove the money from the country.

Defence lawyer Mark Daniels meanwhile argued the incident was a “one-off scenario” and that a two-year sentence would be manifestly harsh.

Bennett herself told the court that she wanted to be able to be back with her family, saying: “I never meant any harm to anyone and I’m sorry. I pray the court finds it in its heart to send me home to my family.”

Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said that money laundering is a serious matter in Bermuda, but noted Bennett had carried out charitable work and had no previous convictions anywhere.

In the circumstances, she sentenced Bennett to serve 18 months in prison, ordering that the time already served be taken into account and that the seized funds be forfeited.

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