Grandma caught laundering drug trafficking dough
A "wilfully blind" grandmother who agreed to help her daughter's friend ended up getting tangled in a drug trafficking web.
Kerri-Anne McInnes, 58, pleaded guilty in the Maroochydore District Court on Monday to money laundering recklessly.
Crown prosecutor Christopher Cook told the court McInnes was involved in money laundering over a 14-week period from June to September 2018.
McInnes received close to $26,000 from Joshua Mark Cowan.
The court heard allegations Cowan had a methamphetamine trafficking business and McInnes' daughter, Megan McInnes, was involved as well.
Cowan and McInnes have both been charged with drug trafficking and are yet to enter their pleas.
Mr Cook said McInnes agreed to process 13 payments from Cowan through her business, a bread and baked goods distribution company, after being approached by her daughter to help him out.
"It is a serious offence and drug traffickers are looking for new means to launder their money in the modern age where we see the cash economy is fading," Mr Cook said.
"So people with businesses like Ms McInnes need to be deterred from engaging in such conduct."
Mr Cook told the court McInnes had lived a "previously blemish free" life.
The court heard McInnes had profited from the money laundering as part of the alleged drug trafficking operation.
"An inference could be drawn that she had a misguided sense of loyalty to her daughter," Mr Cook said.
Judge Anthony Rafter said it was a very unusual thing for a daughter to ask her mother.
Defence barrister Sarah Cartledge told the court McInnes knew what she was doing wasn't legal but had no idea it involved drug trafficking.
"Essentially Ms McInnes was approached by her daughter Megan suggesting that Mr Cowan was a friend who needed help getting a personal loan," she said.
"He was self employed and was struggling to get a personal loan from a bank.
"Ms McInnes, herself being self employed and having recently herself gone through a similar process, understood how difficult it is to receive a loan so agreed, in hindsight rather foolishly, to assist her daughter."
The court heard McInnes pretended Cowan worked for her, providing him with pay slips.
"It was foolish participation in what was happening," Ms Cartledge said.
"She was certainly unaware that her daughter was that heavily involved in the drug scene.
"She certainly knew her daughter had some problems previously with drug use, however had no knowledge until her ultimate arrest in 2019 how bad it really was."
Mr Rafter said some things didn't add up.
"Mr Cowan had a business according to what the daughter told your client," he said.
"During which time he had almost $26,000 over a three-month period that he was able to funnel through your client's business.
"It makes it appear it was a reasonably successful business and you'd think that any rational person wouldn't think it would be a difficult thing for that person to demonstrate to a bank that they were running a successful business."
Ms Cartledge told the court McInnes eventually stopped the transactions because she started to feel uneasy about it.
The court heard McInnes' daughter Megan, who is due to face the Supreme Court for her involvement in the alleged drug trafficking operation, had two daughters of her own.
"At the time of the offending Megan was remanded in custody and Ms McInnes had to essentially pick up the life of Megan and take care of the children," Ms Cartledge said.
She said McInnes was still running the distribution company which delivered bread and baked goods around the Sunshine Coast and had contracts with Coles and Woolworths.
The court heard McInnes would now have to disclose to her clients her criminal history.
"She appreciates in hindsight how foolish this offending is and she feels deeply embarrassed by it," Ms Cartledge said.
Mr Rafter said he took into account McInnes had no prior criminal history and was led astray by her daughter.
"It is accepted by the Crown that you were wilfully blind to what was going on," he said.
"I accept that you did not know your daughter was (allegedly) involved in drug trafficking."
He sentenced her to one year jail, wholly suspended for two years.
A conviction was recorded.