Fashion boss sentenced to prison for laundering drugs money through her company
A fashion industry executive who was a part of a group that used Vietnamese college students in the UK as money mules was sentenced to prison for her part in the laundering of more than £1 million in heroin money.
One of four women, Hanh Nguyen, employed college students to transfer income from a vast network of marijuana plantations.
My Ha Do, a 31-year-old Cambridge graduate who headed the group, discovered residences being used as illicit cannabis farms around Britain. He was also suspected of taking part in people smuggling, phony marriages, and document forgery.
She received a three-year sentence. To send the money overseas, the gang utilized the accounts of Nguyen's London-based fashion business.
Nguyen, a 41-year-old money-laundering member of Do's organization who is also an accountant, recruited Vietnamese students over Facebook.
Overall, five members of the human trafficking group who used nail salons and student accounts to launder £4 million have already received sentences.
They allegedly exploited Vietnamese students at a British institution as part of a worldwide criminal conspiracy to deposit millions of pounds of cash into their bank accounts.
Then, these funds were distributed to other Vietnamese citizens operating clothing exporting enterprises in the UK.
The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU), who discovered the ring, said that some of the money was also being cleaned using nail bars.
Investigation revealed financial offenses valued little less than £4.2 million.
The money was obtained through illicit means, including as charging Vietnamese people in France between £7,000 and £11,500 to transport them illegally into the UK.
Then some of these were made available as "workers" to assist marijuana cultivation enterprises.
Warrants were carried out across the nation in Birmingham, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Leicester, London, and Wales following an investigation by ERSOU.
"This was a major, highly sophisticated operation which attempted to conceal large sums of criminal cash across international borders," said Det Con Paul Gillick from the team.
"These gangs are desperate for people to help them avoid detection and move their money. People need to be wise to this and know that ignorance is no excuse: if you are caught doing this, there is a very strong chance you will go to prison."
Geraldo Baci was one of those detained, and it was discovered that he had been given employees for his marijuana business.
Officers searched his residence and found cannabis worth about £25,000 as well as £5,000 in cash.
Baci, 30, of Bedford, was sentenced to 16 months in jail after being found guilty of possession with intent to provide cannabis, possession of illicit property, and possession of a controlled substance for use in fraud.
In connection with money laundering offenses totaling approximately £2 million, My Ha Do, a 31-year-old Londoner, was found guilty in November of conspiring to provide cannabis, two counts of converting criminal property, and two charges of transferring criminal property.
At Southwark Crown Court on Monday, she received a three-year sentence.
Three further women were also convicted guilty of serious money laundering offenses during a separate trial in March.
The head of the fashion industry, Hanh Tuyet Nguyen, of Dale Road in Shropshire, was found guilty of hiding illegal property twice and converting it once.
Thi Ngoc Nguyen, 31, of Broomfield Road, Bristol, was convicted of possessing and transmitting stolen items.
A jury convicted Thi Phuong Huyen Phan, 35, of Willoughby Road, London, guilty of hiding stolen property.
They received terms of two years, 18 months, and 10 months suspended for 18 months, respectively, at the sentencing hearing on Monday.
Ly Thi Hoai Pham, 53, of no fixed address, earlier entered a guilty plea to conspiring to provide cannabis and converting criminal property.
She served six and a half years in prison.
"Organised crime destroys lives. Anyone helping to facilitate it will face the full force of the law," according to DC Gillick.
Nguyen gave the judge a stack of papers including her family's history and medical information during the court hearing.
She delivered a statement from the witness box in which she denied engaging in illicit behavior, and the court permitted her to do so. The case, she claimed, "made me wonder what I had done in my previous lives that I am now in this unfortunate situation," since she was a Buddhist who believed in reincarnation.
"She would much rather have had a barrister to put her point across," Nguyen's husband, Arran Lee Squire, said following the punishment. "But I respect that they are striking for what they believe in."
At trial, Squire was found not guilty of money laundering.
The pair originally gained notoriety in 2015 after Squire created what he called one of the first artificial intelligence sex robots in history.
Squire, 41, stated to Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, the broadcasters of ITV's This Morning show, that his wife supported the Samantha doll because it had a "family mode" when he was in court to see his wife get jailed.
Later, Nguyen remarked, "As a woman I am not offended to have her around. I am not worried she will replace me. She is just someone there, like a family member."
Due to a barristers' strike, Nguyen's lawyer failed to appear for the sentence, which helped the case gain notoriety in the UK.
Nguyen's attorney failed to appear at Southwark crown court on Friday, so Judge David Tomlinson made the "highly undesirable" choice to carry out the punishment.
Tomlinson noted when he sentenced Nguyen to two years in prison, "It is particularly unfortunate and regrettable that the escalation of the action by the Criminal Bar Association [means] Nguyen has found herself in the unenviable position of not having counsel physically representing her." The judge described it as a "novel situation" that he had not encountered in the criminal court system in 45 years.
Tomlinson noted that judges were being urged to refrain from sharing their personal opinions about the strike, but he also expressed surprise that the sentence had not been deemed to include "exceptional circumstances" given that the date had been set so that all barristers could attend.
The decision to proceed with the hearing might be viewed as a trial run for how judges would conduct sentencing while the association's members are on strike and refusing to perform work for legal aid. Criminal legal aid rates need to increase by 25%, according to barristers.
The court rejected requests from attorneys for two of the defendants to stop the case due to a lack of counsel.
By fLEXI tEAM