Woman caught with £150,000 of government money at Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal

Border Force officers found the money stashed in a coat and a shopping bag. Credit: Kent Police

A woman has been caught trying to take more than £150,000 of government money out of the UK.

The cash was stashed in a coat and a shopping bag in 34-year-old Lucia-Maria Burlacu's car.

Burlacu, from Hounslow, had told officers that she was travelling to Romania with her family, where they were from, for the Christmas break and only had £2,000 in cash on them.

Border Force officers stopped the vehicle in December 2022 as it travelled through the Eurotunnel Terminal at Folkestone.

More than £140,000 in cash was stashed in a shopping bag behind the driver's seat and another £10,000 in cash was found stashed in coat pockets in the back of the vehicle.

The money had been fraudulently claimed from a government scheme set up to help small businesses during the Covid pandemic.

Kent Police was called and the money was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

An investigation later established that Burlacu had made multiple fraudulent applications for the Government Bounce Back Loan Scheme.

The case was subsequently taken over and investigated by the National Investigation Service who found the cash was illegally obtained by through fraudulent government Bounce Back loans, failure to declare earnings for the purpose of taxation and other criminality.

Following the hearing on Friday 3 March 2023, magistrates ordered the forfeiture of £155,295.00.

Mark Wheeler, Strategic Lead for Operations of the National Investigation Service (NATIS) said: "I am pleased that following the actions taken by our colleagues in UK Borders & Kent Police, to prevent a large amount of cash from being taken out of the UK, NATIS Financial Investigation Officers were able to secure through the courts the forfeiture of just over £155,000 of fraudulently obtained public money. 

"NATIS continues to work in partnership with the Department for Business and Trade to pursue criminals who have committed fraud against the Governments covid loan and grant schemes and recover public money."