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hashtag guilty 'Naive' model and 'influencer' spared jail for letting fraudster use her bank account for crime proceeds

A pre-sentence report said Lawani was 'someone who was a victim of her own kindness'

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1/10/2021
Karine Lawani (22) of Foxborough Road, Lucan, Dublin pictured leaving the Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street in Dublin after she appeared before Dublin District Court. Pic: Paddy Cummins/IrishPhotoDesk.ie

1/10/2021 Karine Lawani (22) of Foxborough Road, Lucan, Dublin pictured leaving the Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street in Dublin after she appeared before Dublin District Court. Pic: Paddy Cummins/IrishPhotoDesk.ie

1/10/2021 Karine Lawani (22) of Foxborough Road, Lucan, Dublin pictured leaving the Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street in Dublin after she appeared before Dublin District Court. Pic: Paddy Cummins/IrishPhotoDesk.ie

A "naive" model and social media influencer has avoided jail and a criminal record for letting a fraudster use her bank account to transfer crime proceeds.

Karine Lawani, 22, a psychology student of Foxborough Road, Lucan, Co. Dublin, pleaded guilty in July to money laundering.

Lawani, who wants to be a prison therapist, claimed she unknowingly became involved after a man contacted her through the Snapchat messenger app.

Detective Garda John Saunderson told Dublin District Court that €5430 was transferred into Lawani's Permanent TSB bank account on February 11 last year.

At the resumed hearing today, Judge Bryan Smyth noted Lawani paid back all the money. In addition, a probation report stated she was at low risk of reoffending.

Her barrister pleaded for her client to be spared a recorded conviction due to extenuating circumstances. Counsel asked the judge to note Lawani had suffered from publicity which led to threats.

The pre-sentence report found Lawani to be at the "lowest end of recklessness, someone who was a victim of her own kindness".

Judge Smyth said he thought an influencer would be tech-savvy and difficult to be duped in this way.

However, he applied the Probation of Offender's Act. It spares her a criminal record as well as a custodial sentence.

Earlier, the court heard a Waterford based firm had received an email purporting to be from a supplier seeking payment of an invoice.

The firm transferred the money as instructed, and there were two withdrawals from Lawani's account on the same date.

Gardai obtained CCTV evidence showing an “unknown male withdrawing €1500 from the account” at an ATM in the Liffey Valley shopping centre.

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.

The detective agreed with Karla Ray BL that Lawani was cooperative. She identified herself on CCTV footage and acknowledged it was her account.

When the detective put it to her that she allowed it to be used for transferring stolen money, she replied: "I unknowingly allowed it. If I had not, I wouldn't have."

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

Lawani, who is expecting a child, gave the court a written apology.

Counsel said she completed a degree in psychology and hoped to do a master's course to become a prison therapist to help unfortunate members of society. The model had also done charity work, and there was a reference from her church pastor, the court heard.

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 friends who are not friends in real life".

The barrister said her client interacted stupidly and naively because she wanted 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.

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