Suspect told sob story by fraudsters, court told
A homeless teenager accused of assisting a £67,000 bank fraud told a jury how she feared for her safety after a group of 'brothers' she thought she was helping turned out to be conmen.
Destiny Wright unwittingly allowed the men to use her bank account to launder money they had swindled out of an elderly Staffordshire care home owner, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
The fraudsters have never been traced but seven facilitators, including a Wolverhampton man, are in the dock for allowing their personal bank accounts to be used to hold the stolen cash.
Wright was 17 and pregnant when she was introduced by a friend to some men in Leicester city centre, the jury heard.
They told her their mother was being beaten by their father and they needed to return home to Somalia but did not have bank accounts to receive money from relatives who were paying their plane fares.
Wright broke down as she told how she had sympathised, having suffered a similar experience with her own parents. She said: "I felt sorry for them. I asked if I could help. They asked if I had a bank account."
The gang told her they would have £500 transferred to her account which she could then withdraw on their behalf but instead they moved £12,000, said Wright, who added she was neither offered nor asked for any payment.
The jury also heard how the men's attitude towards her changed, from being friendly to forceful. They took her by car to nearby shops and ordered her to withdraw £2,500 in euros from Thomas Cook's and another £2,500 from Debenham's, before driving to another location to withdraw a further £2,000.
Before being 'kicked out' of the car, she was stripped of her ID and bank cards and warned not to tell the police or her bank or the men would call on her family. "I was too scared to tell anyone. I didn't want my little brothers and sisters to get hurt," she said.
The following day the gang took her back to Debenhams' to withdraw another £2,500 but when the next two ATM machines failed to work, they said they did not have time to wait and told her to keep the rest of the money.
She said she paid off her mother's rent arrears and also bought food and clothes for her siblings because her mother was struggling, and also bought clothes and sleeping bags for herself and her boyfriend as they were sleeping rough.
In the dock are Hamza Hussain, 19, of Bright Street, Whitmore Reans; Ahmed Ismal, 21, from Kestral Avenue, Birmingham; Abdirihman Salad, 21, from Yardley Road, Birmingham; Abdirahman Berkan, 21, of Charles Road, Birmingham; Vasille-Marian Chirac, 33, of Prebend Street, Leicester; Eugen-Gabriel Munteanu, 23, of Granville Street, Loughborough; and Destiny Wright, 19, of New Parks Boulevard, Leicester.
The case against Armani Beighton, 22, of Whilloughby Street, Nottingham, has been dropped.
The defendants plead not guilty to acquiring, using or possessing criminal property between June 24 and June 30, 2017. The trial continues.