The seemingly ordinary men and women who became riddled with debt and turned to crime

The motive behind crime vary for a number of reasons.

Whether it be revenge, boredom or simply to gain notoriety, thousands of criminals pass through London’s magistrates’ and Crown courts every year.

There are a rare few, though, who get themselves into awkward situations in which they need to make money as soon as possible, even if it means breaking the law to do so.

The stress and worry of debt can lead the most honest and law-abiding citizens to crime, despite the risk of spending time behind bars.

Below, My London has looked back on cases where seemingly ordinary people turned to a life of crime because of debt.

They include a man smuggling drugs into the country to repay a debt after damaging a boat and a a solicitor who wanted to live a life of luxury.

READ MORE: 10 of London’s most evil killers and the heinous crimes they committed

Tara Hanlon

Tara Hanon from Leeds was a recruitment manager

Tara Hanlon, 30, was caught with £1.9 million in sterling notes at Heathrow Airport in October last year as she tried to board a flight to Dubai.

The cash was vacuum packed and covered in ground coffee to hide the smell from sniffer dogs and was described as the biggest money seizure at the border in 2020.

However, 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. She also admitted attempting to remove the £1.9 million she was caught with at Heathrow in October.

Hanlon had also celebrated the payment of “three big ones” following the first trip, writing in a message to the woman: “With this wage and the next my debts go bye. Time for TT to live her best life.”

Maria Antonia Cameira

Maria Antonia Cameira

Police want to trace Portuguese solicitor Maria Antonia Cameira after she fled the UK before the end of her criminal trial

A solicitor from Chelsea siphoned off money from her client to pay off debts and fund a luxury lifestyle.

Portuguese national Maria Antonia Cameira was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in her absence for fraud by abuse of position after fleeing the UK before the end of her criminal trial in October 2016.

In 2012, her victim instructed Cameira Law Ltd to act as conveyancer for the purchase of a flat. The victim paid £278,100 into the client account of CL@Cameira Legal Ltd.

However, the purchase of the flat did not take place and it was later discovered that between May and August 2012 the money had been siphoned from the client account and used for other purposes.

More than £90,000 was used to pay debts to other persons, with the remainder transferred into business accounts and into the personal account of Cameira and spent.

Rhiann Keys

Rhiann Keys scammed her friend out of more than a whopping £35,000

Rhiann Keys scammed her friend out of more than a whopping £35,000

A pilates teacher from West Hampstead funded her lavish lifestyle by purchasing holidays and iPhones on her friend’s credit card.

Rhiann Keys, 35, of Compayne Gardens, was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years for two counts of fraud in July 2019.

In total, she scammed her friend out of £35,038.85.

The court heard Keys used credit cards belonging to her friend and client, without her permission, to buy expensive goods and fund her flamboyant lifestyle.

The fraud was carried out between December 2017 and May 2018. During that time, Keys purchased 24 iPhones, to the value of £25,210.94 and car insurance priced at £2,763. She also purchased a dog car seat for her Dachshund and paid for holidays for her friends to Ibiza, including Air BnB rooms.

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Jhonatan Martins Kirchhoff

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Barber Jhonatan Martins Kirchhoff smuggled drugs to pay off drug debt and keep his income

A barber caught at Heathrow Airport with £300,000 worth of cocaine said the coronavirus lockdown forced him into drug smuggling.

Jhonatan Martins Kirchhoff, 22, was stopped at the airport on his return from Brazil with the drugs hidden in his suitcase on July 1.

He was stopped by Border Force and one of his suitcases was found to contain a sticky substance that tested positive for cocaine. In his other suitcase, hidden compartments contained more cocaine.

Kirchoff, 22, initially claimed he had no idea where the drugs came from and that he had bought the suitcases from Primark.

However later the dual German and Brazilian dual national admitted to the National Crime Agency investigators that he had turned to drug smuggling to earn extra cash after losing his income during the coronavirus pandemic as well as paying off his own drug debt.

Clayton Johnson

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Clayton Johnson tried to bring 1.5kg of cocaine into the UK

A Bromley man attempted to smuggle drugs inside his bottom through Gatwick Airport to pay off a debt.

Clayton Johnson tried to bring 1.5kg of cocaine into the UK – swallowing 56 packages and concealing others within two specially modified pairs of shoes. Another four were stuffed in his rectum.

The 52-year-old Jamaican national, had intended to sell the drugs to repay a £6,000 debt incurred by damaging a boat in Jamaica.

Johnson, of Downham Way, Bromley, was sentenced to eight years and three months in prison at Isleworth Crown Court in November last year.

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