Woman ‘manipulated’ by hackers into money laundering | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

A woman who was manipulated into helping hackers launder more than $3.2 million has been spared jail after a judge found she acted out of desperation to recover her life savings.

Rossmani “Rosse” Eckl, 68, was found guilty in June by a Brisbane Supreme Court jury of five counts of knowingly dealing with proceeds of crime.

The jury heard evidence that Eckl used numerous bank accounts to receive money from a group that stole or attempted to steal from businesses in Australia and France using fraudulent emails requesting payment of fake invoices.

Between May 2019 and July 2020, Eckl was sent amounts varying from $2600 to $1.16 million and transferred or attempted to transfer the funds to overseas bank accounts or withdrew cash and handed it to others.

In sentencing Eckl on Thursday, Justice Paul Freeburn accepted there was no satisfactory evidence that she directly benefited except for $1300 for her dental treatment.

Justice Freeburn instead found that Eckl had been strung along by the hacking group who said they could help her get back $600,000 she lost in 2010 to a man claiming to be a Nigerian political leader.

“Eckl had a blind and almost certainly irrational belief that the scammers would honour their promise to help her recover the money,” Justice Freeburn said.

A psychologist’s report said Eckl’s low self-worth and difficulty in asserting her needs made her more vulnerable to manipulation.

The money sent to Eckl came from a variety of victims including a hazardous waste removal company in Sydney, a French gas transport company, a Sydney aged care home and a livestock feed company in South Australia.

Through their attack on the aged care provider, the hackers went on to target a man who was asked to pay $850,000 to secure a residential place for his mother.

Some of the transfers, including the $850,000 aged care deposit, were identified as fraudulent by the victims’ banks and were blocked.

A complaint from the French company resulted in Queensland Police detectives visiting Eckl’s home in Carina in Brisbane’s inner east.

Justice Freeburn noted the jury had found Eckl, who had a degree in accounting and worked as a paralegal at the time, handled the money while knowing it was from the proceeds of crime despite her denials in court.

“The sums involved here were very significant, and Eckl’s role facilitated serious and organised criminal activity,” Justice Freeburn said.

He said Eckl has no criminal history, had lived in Australia since 1975 after migrating from Malaysia and imposing a full-time sentence would cause exceptional hardship to her through automatic deportation and to her family members who relied on her support.

“This incident appears to be an aberration in an otherwise law-abiding existence in the community,” Justice Freeburn said.

He sentenced Eckl to three years’ imprisonment but ordered her released on a $1000 and five-year good behaviour bond on the condition she attend counselling for the next two years.


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