Handcuffed in bed (by the police)

[Note: Names, locations and certain other details in this post have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty!]

By all appearances the Whinsors were an ordinary family, living with their two school age children in a house in Bristol which they rented from the council.  Phil was a taxi driver and Liz had recently taken on part time work behind a bar evenings and weekends.

But appearances changed dramatically before dawn one chilly November morning when police 'effected a forcible entry' to their home (breaking down the door) at 6:00 a.m., rushed up the stairs and arrested and handcuffed them both - their hands behind their backs - while they were still in bed.

The police action was part of 'Operation Hokum'.  One of a series of raids that morning on suspected drug dealers in the locality.  The police were acting on intelligence and their suspicions were well founded.  The police asked Liz and Phil if there were any drugs on the premises.  Phil immediately answered, "Yes, in the bag on top of the wardrobe".  Sure enough in the bag was 1Kg of 'skunk' cannabis.  Inside the same wardrobe the police found a large holdall.  Unzipping the holdall PC Floorless could see at once that it contained a large amount of cash.  He called for backup - specifically a video camera operator.  He was not going to touch that cash without having everything recorded on film.

When the video officer arrived the holdall was emptied onto the bed.  It contained a little over £50,000 in notes and Liz's passport.

The police searched the rest of the house and the family cars and seized further small amounts of drugs (including a small amount of cocaine), a few hundred pounds of further cash, several mobile phones, some bank statements and other items.

Phil and Liz were detained for questioning at the local police station.  Phil admitted possession of the cannabis which he intended to sell and possession of the cash in the holdall.  He said he had been dealing in drugs for a short while unknown to his wife and family.  Liz went "no comment" in police interview on the advice of her solicitor.  Later that day both were released on police bail.

The mobile phones were sent for forensic examination.  Revealing text messages (for example, "u got 1g 4 me") were found.

Police also undertook a financial investigation and obtained Phil and Liz's (and the children's) bank statements for past years - in some cases going back to 2003.  They also obtained Phil's tax returns (Liz had not submitted any).

Phil and Liz had each had bank accounts in their own names.  There were no joint accounts.

The police formed the view that the deposits in Phil and Liz's bank accounts were inconsistent with their legitimate income.  Added to which, during the previous Summer Liz had got a second-hand Nissan Micra.  Enquiries revealed that this had been bought from a car dealer for £5,000 paid in cash.

Liz's passport showed three trips to Cyprus over the previous year.  On each occasion she had stayed for 2 / 3 weeks.

HMRC records also showed that the family had been in receipt of Tax Credits for several years.

At the conclusion of the police investigations Phil and Liz were both charged with (i) possession of controlled drugs with intent to supply, (ii) possession of the cash in the holdall (as criminal property), (iii) conversion of criminal property (the cash banked in their individual bank accounts since 2003), and - in respect of Liz only (iv) conversion of criminal property by the purchase of the Micra.

Phil and Liz instructed different firms of solicitors.  Phil pleaded guilty to possession of the cannabis and the money in the holdall and not guilty to conversion of criminal property.  Liz pleaded not guilty to all four charges which she faced.

I was instructed by the solicitors acting for Liz to consider whether the examination of her bank accounts and car purchase supported the money laundering allegations against her.

Liz had gone "no comment" in police interview on legal advice.  But she now told her lawyers that her husband dealt with the family finances.  He had bought her the car as a gift and he had paid for it and arranged for it to be registered in her name.  He had also paid the insurance for it (by a direct debit from his bank account).  She knew nothing about the existence of the drugs or the cash in her bedroom, nor of any drug dealing by her husband.  Her father was ill in Cyprus and she had been going there to simply visit him.

My examination of her bank accounts showed that many of the deposits referred to by the police were not cash deposits but bank transfers.  The amount of cash deposited over the years was not that great (well into five figures, but over a period of six years).  Given the cash nature of her husband's self-employment the values and patterns of these cash deposits did not appear manifestly inconsistent with the family's apparent legitimate lifestyle.  There seemed to be no evidence to indicate that Liz knew, or even suspected, that her husband was engaged in crime.  I submitted my report to my instructing solicitors.

If it were to be accepted that Liz was truly unaware of the drugs and cash in the bedroom and had no knowledge or suspicion of Phil's criminal activities then she would not be guilty of any of the charges which she faced.

On the day Phil and Liz's case came to the Crown Court, counsel for the prosecution met with counsel for Phil and for Liz outside the courtroom shortly before the case was due to start.  The upshot was that Phil agreed to change his plea to guilty to the money laundering count with which he had been charged and to 'carry the can' for the car purchase and the cash through Liz's bank accounts as well.  In turn the prosecution dropped all the charges against Liz.  There would now be no need for a jury trial.

Phil will be sentenced at a later date and no doubt will be subject to confiscation proceedings as well.  Liz emerged from court with no stain on her character.

David

Accounting Evidence Ltd

Comments

Wardrobes ?

The Black Knight | | Permalink

Why is the cash always in the wardrobe ? or in the directors car boot ?

and where was the wifes lover hiding?  lol

I know this is a great result and well done, but surely the wife must have had some suspicion that her lifestyle was being funded from somewhere, not that that makes her guilty of anything, but I suppose her assets are safe now ?

 

 

davidwinch's picture

Frozen?

davidwinch | | Permalink

On occasion the money is not in the wardrobe - it's in the freezer, underneath the fish and the readymeals!

Seriously, if the wife had a suspicion that the monies going into her bank account were proceeds of crime she would be guilty of money laundering by 'acquiring criminal property' contrary to s329 PoCA 2002 or possibly concealing or converting criminal property under s327.  If - perish the thought - she had been using the holdall to take criminal cash out of the country on her trips to Cyprus . . .

As for her assets, the house was rented and her car and bank balances he has now admitted were in effect gifts from him funded by his crimes.  So, as 'tainted gifts' he is deemed still to have the value of them as part of his 'available amount' in his confiscation.

But the good news is that she will not be sleeping in Holloway!

It is perhaps fortunate that the police did not pursue the question as to whether the Tax Credit claims - made by both Phil and Liz - were dishonest.

Incidentally, as sometimes happens, I was only instructed in this case and supplied with the case papers less than a week before the trial date when the legal team realised instructing a forensic accountant might be a good idea.

David

Being handcuffed in bed...

Stephen Morris | | Permalink

 Reminds me of saucy Hollywood films. 

stepurhan's picture

Which is why (by the police) was added

stepurhan | | Permalink

David doesn't engage in such activities (or at least, isn't going to talk on a forum about them)

Do I understand that, since her bank account was apparently funded by his activities, it is as subject to confiscation as his bank account? Does the fact that they are husband and wife as opposed to a couple simply living together have an effect on this? Presumably, if she can prove legitimate income for herself, then this will be excluded from confiscation as proven not to be criminal property. The trips to Cyprus were obviously for her job of meeting the natives and waving nicely while wearing a lovely matching coat and hat.

It sounds like the deal on the day was not because they were sure Liz had no suspicions, but that such suspicions were difficult to prove. It seems unlikely that a husband would be able to smuggle £50,000 of cash into the bedroom unnoticed (I don't know how big 1kg of skunk cannabis is so that might have been relatively small). Are such deals common in situations where the prosecution have much more evidence against one suspect than another?

davidwinch's picture

Deals etc

davidwinch | | Permalink

Deals 'on the steps of the court house' are very common, particularly in confiscation cases (although this was a trial rather than a confiscation).

In a trial situation an accused defendant can get a 'double' advantage from doing a deal.  The Crown may compromise by reducing the allegations and / or may agree to accept a guilty plea 'on a basis' - where it is agreed that the defendant pleads guilty on the basis that 'I did this, but I didn't do that'.  The judge can only then sentence the defendant for the conduct which he has admitted.

Secondly the defendant will get a 'discount' on his sentence (of up to one third) for having pleaded guilty rather than going to trial.

So a deal can be attractive to a defendant.  It is also attractive to the prosecution since they are then sure of getting 'a result' and it saves the time and expense of a jury trial.

With regard to the wife's bank accounts and car they are not subject to confiscation but the husband's 'available amount' is deemed to include the value of them.  That means that the confiscation order (which is an order to pay a sum of money - not an order transferring ownership of any assets to the Crown) will reflect that value.  He will then have to pay up (it doesn't matter to the Court how he gets sufficient money to do that) or serve an additional  period of imprisonment in default.

In practice the most likely option is that the wife will pass money back to the husband to enable him to settle the confiscation order - but the court does not have any power to order her to do that (she is, of course, innocent of any crime).

The law applies to gifts to anyone - so it is irrelevant (as a point of law) that in this case the donee is his wife (but in practice the court is going to view it as more likely that he can 'reverse' this gift than if, say, he had made a gift to Oxfam).

David

Not knowing the position

dougc99 | | Permalink

I find it quite perplexing that the wife did not know about the bag with money and the skunk.

There is a very good reason why it is called "skunk" having sat in an interview room with a fairly large amount whilst the poor "mule" tried to explain its presence in his car boot, I can safely say the stuff stinks. 1Kg would be more than enough to stink a room out after a while. I would say the wife only got away with it because the husband rolled over and the prosecution had bigger fish to fry and an ever increasing workload to cover. Sorry having worked both sides of the fence I'm a tad cynical by now!

Also I would not dream of trying to hide anything in the bedroom as my wife would spot it very quickly and any way did this woman not dust!!

 

Doug

Dust

The Black Knight | | Permalink

Women do not dust these days ! lol

He could have spread his risk by keeping deposits in his mistresses wardrobes ! may be he did ! lol

How Could she Not Know

rquaye | | Permalink

"It contained a little over £50,000 in notes and Liz's passport."

David, how could she not know, if her passport was in the holdal with the dosh? Also did they investigate if they had bank accounts overseas?

This is great case and well done

Monsoon's picture

Even if she did know

Monsoon | | Permalink

Even if she did know, and it might be unlikely that she didn't, though of course it is posslbe possible (dusting? Ironing? What are these things? I barely do any washing up!!), some people are oblivious (worrying about dad in cyprus, heavy joss stick or glade plug in users?!) given that they have 2 school age children, surely the best interests of the children are that one parent stays out of jail. Nice work David, well done.

to be fair

The Black Knight | | Permalink

this often happens with debt issues where the wife (despite having had foreign holidays ,extensions, jewellery etc etc and knowing her husbands earnings) has no idea of the debt problems.

These simple accountancy type skills we take for granted do not come easy to most of the population.

I recall a news story where a chap had borrowed £115K on credit cards with a salary of £15k, the first the wife knew of the problem was when he hung himself in the shed.

Passport would indicate to me that a runner was about to happen or that regular trips abroad took cash each time ?

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