20 May 2015

$5 note leads woman to a bag of cash at The Star casino

A woman took $624,340 in notes to the exclusive Sovereign Room and asked to put it in her casino account.

A man and a woman arranged a meeting at the Star Casino, agreeing she would hand over a $5 note.

The exchange of that note led them down to the car park to collect a backpack, hidden inside a plastic bag, containing far more cash.

From there, the couple went briefly to a hotel room, before the woman took $624,340 in notes to the exclusive Sovereign Room and asked to put it in her casino account.

Casino staff noticed the dirt and grit on the money, and the strange way it was bundled, and called the Australian Federal Police to investigate the woman, who asked if she could transfer some money to a bank account on January 20, 2013.

The next day police arrested Yi-Hua Jiao​ with $300,000 in cash, which she had withdrawn from her casino account, at the Pyrmont branch of the Commonwealth Bank.

Ms Jiao was charged with dealing with money over the amount of $100,000, which was reasonable to suspect was the proceeds of crime.

After a trial in the NSW District Court, Ms Jiao was found guilty and sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

But the Crown appealed what it argued was an "unjust" or "unreasonable" sentence, and on Friday the Court of Criminal Appeal re-sentenced her to 16 months' custody.

The court heard that Ms Jiao had agreed to meet the man, and hand over a $5 note with a particular serial number on it to identify herself.

Her trial was told that the money was obtained by her brother Sheng Chou Jiao​, so that one of her sons, William, could open his Taiwanese coffee cart business in Sydney.

It was also going to be used to buy a "ranch" where Mr Jiao planned to spend his retirement, the trial heard.

Ms Jiao told the court she believed the money belonged to her brother through a "money remittance transaction".

There was no information at trial about the origin of the money, other than a belief that it had been "purchased" by her brother.

The appeals court noted that the amount was more than six times over the threshold for the charge.

"The sentence passed was manifestly inadequate and a substantial increase is warranted," the court, made up of Justices Julie Ward, Peter Johnson and Monika Schmidt, said in its judgment.

The court took into account Ms Jiao's co-operation with authorities when considering the new sentence.

Ms Jiao, who holds both Taiwanese and New Zealand passports, will be released in December after serving a years' jail, and will then be subject to a four-month good behaviour bond.