A woman who was jailed after being caught with suitcases full of cash has caused a stir for more than just her elaborate money-laundering schemes.
Tara Hanlon, 30, hit headlines on Monday after she was sentenced to two years and 10 months behind bars. But it was a widely used description of her, rather than her crimes, which seemed to pique many readers’ interest.
“Kim Kardashian-lookalike” is what a number of national papers went for, with publications like the Daily Mail claiming that the “party-loving” 30-year-old from Leeds had undergone cosmetic surgery to look like her KUWTK idol.
But, looking at her police mug shot, scores of people were baffled by the comparison, with the topic soon trending on Twitter as users voiced their confusion at the alleged likeness.
Whether or not Hanlon looks like the reality TV star is probably the least of her concerns right now after she was found guilty of more than £5 million-worth of money-laundering offences.
The 30-year-old recruitment consultant was held at Heathrow Airport in October of last year as she tried to board a flight to Dubai with more than £1.9 million in sterling notes.
The find, vacuum packed in five suitcases and covered in ground coffee to hide the smell from sniffer dogs, was described at the time as the largest individual cash seizure at the border that year.
She pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to remove criminal property from England and Wales between July 13 and October 4 last year, which has been left to lie on file.
But she admitted three counts of removing criminal property, relating to cash amounts of £1.4 million on July 14, £1.1 million on August 10 and £1 million on August 31 last year.
Hanlon also pleaded guilty to attempting to remove £1.9 million in criminal cash from the country on the day she was arrested.
Hanlon was caught at Heathrow Airport with stacks of cashPA
Hanlon, of Pelham Court, Leeds, appeared at Isleworth Crown Court on Monday, where she was jailed for 34 months.
Prosecutor Nathan Rasiah said the charges related to three trips taken to the United Arab Emirates city last summer and one failed attempt in October.
The court heard that on October 3, 2020, she was stopped at the airport by a customs official when travelling with a friend to Dubai.
When asked about the purpose of the visit and her luggage, Hanlon said she was going on a “girls’ trip” and that she had checked in the five suitcases because she “wasn’t sure what to wear” while there.
In a prepared statement to investigators, Hanlon said that it was the first trip she had taken, that she was not being paid and believed it to be legal as the money would be declared in Dubai.
She claimed she had been asked to fly out to provide a hair service for a contact, who later turned out to be her recruiter, in return for free flights and accommodation, and that she had been handed the bags by a driver in London.
However, inquiries with the airline and a search of the defendant’s phone by authorities revealed that she had made three previous visits in July and August as a courier, and had been paid around £3,000 for each trip.
After liaising with authorities in Dubai, the National Crime Agency (NCA) discovered Hanlon had declared she was carrying more than a million pounds in cash upon arrival on each occasion, totalling £3.5 million.
Hanlon arrives at Isleworth Crown Court where she was jailed for two years and 10 monthsPA
Stephen Grattage, defending, claimed that Hanlon was vulnerable at the time of the offences following the sudden death of her mother in March and having been furloughed from her job shortly afterwards.
He said that as the money was being declared in Dubai and the recruiter had mentioned an accountant being involved in the payments, Hanlon believed the business could be legitimate.
However, during sentencing, Judge Karen Holt told her: “Although you were vulnerable at the time, I don’t find that you have been exploited and find that you knew what you were doing.”
Ian Truby, NCA senior investigating officer, said following the hearing: “Tara Hanlon thought that she was going to be living a jet-set lifestyle, instead she is now serving a prison sentence.
“I hope her story is a cautionary one for others who would consider doing the same. Stopping the flow of illicit cash is a priority for the NCA and our partners.”