A mother of five has been cleared by a jury for her role in an Internet scam relating to counterfeit cheques totalling €27,000.
At Ennis Circuit Court, a jury took 90 minutes to reach a unanimous verdict on nine charges faced by Heidi Lammiman of Kilduff, Tulla, Co Clare concerning the fraud.
After the jury delivered its verdict, Judge Gerald Keyes told Ms Lamminan that she could leave court “with your character unblemished”.
The trial heard that Ms Lamminan was duped into getting involved in the scheme after receiving an unsolicited email from ‘Richard Purr’.
Ms Lamminan told Gardai that she spoke with Richard by phone “and he had a deep African accent – Nigerian, maybe Zimbabwe.”
Ms Lamminan told Gardai: “He tried to me put under pressure in the beginning saying that his wife needed an operation and could I give him money.
“I told him that he had to wait for his own money. He said to me how was my family and that he hoped all were keeping well. He was a menacing chap."
Ms Lamminan told Gardai that she felt “an absolute idiot” for getting involved in the scheme.
As part or the arrangement, Ms Lamminan received cheques from Mr Purr’s clients to lodge to her account. After the cheques were to be cleared, she would cash them and forward on the monies to Mr Purr less her 20% cut of the monies.
Three of the six cheques lodged cleared with a value of €12,300 during 2009/10 and Ms Lamminan received €2,460.
In his closing argument to the jury, counsel for Ms Lamminan, Pat Whyms BL said that the state had not proved that she knew or believed that the cheques were counterfeit.
Mr Whyms asked: “is Heidi Lamminan a criminal mastermind or is she a very foolish woman? Stupidity in itself is not a crime and in this case, foolishness and naivety are relevant factors.
Mr Whyms said that Ms Lamminan is an ordinary trustworthy member of the community in east Clare for the past 20 years.
The counsel added that “there was no possible way that Ms Lamminan would have going to get away with this. The cheques were in her name.. It was the criminal mastermind, Richard Purr that got the 80% who has got away with it.
He said: “What did she make out of it, just over €2,000? Is a mother of five children who had never been in trouble before going to risk to go to jail and deprive her children of their mother when the chances of getting away with it were zero?
He added: “If Heidi Lamminan was the brightest kid in the class, she wouldn’t have been involved in this scam in the first place.”
Counsel for the State, Stephen Coughlan BL said the jury was not entitled to give Ms Lamminan “a fool’s pardon”.
In his closing speech, Mr Coughlan told the jury that in an interview with Gardai when asked did she not think the arrangement suspicious, Ms Lamminan said: “No, I thought it was great. It happens other people and it’s fine making money off the web.”
Mr Coughlan said: “Being stupid is not a defence.”
Mr Coughlan said that a bank referred the 2nd cheque she lodged to a fraud unit and in spite of this Ms Lamminan lodged a further four cheques.
Mr Coughlan said that Ms Lamminan received a 20% cut from lodging and cashing the cheques. He said: “Who gives someone 20% for simply going to the bank and lodging a cheque and remitting it. This is the old case of ‘if it looks too good, it must be too good’.”