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How single mother’s ‘love’ for online boyfriend led to thousands fraudulently stolen

A woman has avoided jail after she fraudulently took more than $13,000 and gave the money to the person she had an online relationship with but never met.

Margaret Dawn Smith pleaded guilty to seven charges of dealing with property suspected of being proceeds of crime in the Supreme Court of Tasmania.

The court was told the single mother, 50, fell in love with a fictitious person known as John Andrews whom she’d met online three years prior – a person she had never seen a picture of or met and had just two phone calls with during the span of their relationship.

In February 2020, $13,750 was paid into Smith’s bank account from a man who was buying land in Victoria and received a fraudulent email from the defendant, asking for a 5 per cent deposit for the property.

Once the victim fell for the trick, John Andrews then told the woman what to do with the money via seven transactions.

Margaret Dawn Smith was ‘in love’ with a person she had an online relationship. File image
Camera IconMargaret Dawn Smith was ‘in love’ with a person she had an online relationship. File image Credit: News Regional Media

During Smith’s sentencing last week, Chief Justice Alan Blow said some of that money was passed through her son’s bank account and John Andrews only permitted her to keep $500.

“You did what you were told with the money,” he said.

“You suspected the money was the proceeds of criminal activity but you did not want to admit to yourself that you had been fooled and that the love you had for the John Andrews person was love for someone who did not exist.

“You realised that you have had been taken advantage of and that the John Andrews person was not a real person.

“You repaid the $500 to the Commonwealth Bank and ended up with no financial benefit from all of this.”

Sending I love you text message with mobile phone. Online dating, texting or catfishing concept. Romance fraud, scam or deceit with smartphone. Man writing comment.
Camera IconOn seven occasions the mother, 50, engaged in transactions that dealt with the bulk of the money given to her online boyfriend, known as John Andrews. iStock. Credit: istock

The court was told that Smith – a disability support pensioner who suffered from anxiety, depression, diabetes and spinal problems – cared for her twin daughters who each had serious medical problems.

Chief Justice Blow said the woman suffered “a terrible life” and did not believe it was appropriate to hand down jail time or a fine for the crime.

However, because of the amount of money involved, he ordered a short wholly suspended one-month prison sentence on the condition that she cannot commit a punishable offence by imprisonment for six months.

“From the point of view of the law you are an offender, but from the point of view of what happened in this case you are also a victim.

“You were lonely … (and) your relationship had come to nothing.”

Gavel, scales of justice and law books
Camera IconChief Justice Alan Blow sentenced the woman to a wholly suspended one-month prison sentence. File image Credit: News Regional Media

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