West Midlands Police have seized almost £40,000 hidden in a toilet cistern from a suspected money launderer.
Officers found the bathroom bounty during a drugs warrant executed at Helen Ross’s home in Dartford Road in Walsall on 26 September last year.
41-year-old Ross, whose social housing property boasted a new high-spec kitchen and conservatory, claimed the bulk of the money was from casino and online bingo winnings.
However, officers from the Payback Team at West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit probed her bank transactions and betting accounts and could find no evidence of her landing any bumper winnings.
They discovered she had squandered thousands of pounds through online sites and had paid for extensive home improvements and a Range Rover Evoque despite having no clear income stream.
She initially contested the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) application to seize the cash but at Birmingham Magistrates Court on Wednesday dropped her defence in the face of compelling evidence put to the judge by Payback detectives.
A total of £38,610 was seized from her and will be put back into the public purse to be used on community schemes and crime prevention initiatives.
There was insufficient evidence to charge Ross with drug dealing following the warrant but that doesn’t mean we can’t pursue POCA proceedings to seize money or assets we believe are derived from criminality.
Ross previously worked part-time for a local company but had been off on maternity leave for quite some time while claiming housing benefit, child support and other benefits.
Despite this she was driving around in a £40,000 car and had renovated her social housing property to a standard way in excess of her means. She could not explain how she had been able to afford any of this expenditure.
Ross has flaunted her ‘wealth’ in the community for many years, driving expensive cars and going on lavish holidays, despite having very little legitimate income.
I’m sure news that we’ve seized the money will be welcomed by members of the community who get rightly frustrated at people living a high-earner lifestyle without actually working for the money.
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Walsall striker Tom Bradshaw has been speaking to ITV News Central ahead of their game against Barnsley later.
He said he's feeling pretty relaxed about the semi-final.
Walsall FC captain Adam Chambers has signed a new one-year contract with the club.
The 35-year-old midfielder was crowned yesterday The Saddlers' Player and Players’ Player of the Season.
He has made 235 competitive appearances for Walsall since signing from Leyton Orient in July 2011. He captained the team to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final last season.
Adam Chambers said:
“I’m very happy to have sorted my contract out now.
I’m very happy here and there are some really good people in and around the club.
"It’s been a pleasure to play for Walsall and I’ve made some really good friends during my time here."
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Video from Ash Abbey.
Derby County players are among the many congratulating Burton Albion on their historic promotion today to the Championship.
Congratulations to Burton Albion
Up the Brewers, unbelievable...
Best moment in my life!!! What a felling getting promoted to the championship with @burtonalbionfc the fans were incredible!!!
This was the moment the final whistle blew, and the fans let out their relief after a nervous afternoon.
It means they will welcome the likes of Nottingham Forest and Leeds United to the Pirelli Stadium next season.
Burton fans watching the game at the Beech pub in the town say they can't believe the club has sealed promotion after a 0-0 draw at Doncaster.