Woman 'manipulated' by hackers into money laundering

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.

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store