It was claimed in court Tara Hanlon was a “Kim Kardashian-lookalike” but this has been disputed online by fans of the American fashion star.
Tara was living the high life until being jailed for nearly three years over more than £5million worth of money-laundering offences after she was stopped at Heathrow Airport this week.
She was caught with five suitcases full of nearly £2million in cash on her way to Dubai.
Recruitment consultant Tara Hanlon, 30, who worked for a recruitment firm in Leeds and underwent cosmetic surgery to try and look like her idol Kim Kardashian, was held as she tried to board a flight to the United Arab Emirates city last October with more than £1.9million in cash.
The money had been vacuum packed in five suitcases and covered in ground coffee to hide the smell from sniffer dogs, was described at the time as the largest individual cash seizure at the border that year.
Party girl Hanlon, from Leeds, Yorkshire, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to remove criminal property from England and Wales between July 13 and October 4 last year, which has been left to lie on file.
But she admitted three counts of removing criminal property, relating to cash amounts of £1.4million on July 14, £1.1million on August 10 and £1million on August 31 last year.
The defendant also pleaded guilty to attempting to remove £1.9million in criminal cash from the country on the day she was arrested.
Hanlon appeared at Isleworth Crown Court today, where she was jailed for two years and 10 months.
Prosecutor Nathan Rasiah told the court that the charges related to three trips taken to Dubai last summer and one failed attempt in October.
The court heard that on October 3, 2020, the defendant was stopped at the airport by a customs official when travelling with a friend to Dubai.
When asked about the purpose of the visit and her luggage, the defendant said she was going on a ‘girls’ trip’ and that she had checked in the five suitcases because she ‘wasn’t sure what to wear’ whilst there.
The defendant denied that she was travelling with cash on her person or in her luggage, but was subsequently taken into custody and arrested for money laundering after officials discovered the cash in the suitcases.
In a prepared statement to investigators, Hanlon said that it was the first trip she had taken, that she was not being paid and believed it to be legal as the money would be declared in Dubai.
She claimed she had been asked to fly out to provide a hair service for a contact, who later turned out to be her recruiter, in return for free flights and accommodation, and that she had been handed the bags by a driver in London.
However, inquiries with the airline and a search of the defendant’s phone by authorities revealed that she had made three previous visits in July and August as a courier, and had been paid around £3,000 for each trip.
After liaising with authorities in Dubai, the National Crime Agency discovered Hanlon had declared she was carrying more than a million pounds in cash upon arrival on each occasion, totalling £3.5million.
Mr Rasiah told the court that messages found on the defendant’s phone to the woman who recruited her revealed Hanlon had a deeper role in the operation, as the two had discussed involving other couriers.
The defendant 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.’
Stephen Grattage, defending, claimed that Hanlon was vulnerable at the time of the offences following the sudden death of her mother in March and having been furloughed from her job shortly afterwards.
He said that as the money was being declared in Dubai and the recruiter had mentioned an accountant being involved in the payments, Hanlon believed the business could be legitimate.
Hanlon is the ‘party-loving’ Kim Kardashian wannabe arrested at Heathrow
However, during sentencing, Judge Karen Holt told her: ‘Although you were vulnerable at the time, I don’t find that you have been exploited and find that you knew what you were doing.’
Ian Truby, NCA senior investigating officer, said following the hearing: ‘Tara Hanlon thought that she was going to be living a jet-set lifestyle, instead she is now serving a prison sentence.
I hope her story is a cautionary one for others who would consider doing the same. Stopping the flow of illicit cash is a priority for the NCA and our partners.’
Hanlon’s arrest sparked an NCA probe targeting a number of other cash couriers suspected of being linked to the same money laundering network.
Around a month after Hanlon was caught, Czech national Zdenek Kamaryt, 38, was held as he tried to board a flight from Heathrow to Dubai with £1.3million in cash in his bags.
A man posing as a currency trader was jailed after trying to smuggle £1.4 million ($1.9m) in cash in suitcases and socks from the UK to Dubai.
He was caught at London’s Heathrow Airport as he tried to board a flight to Dubai.
The UK’s National Crime Agency described it as a brazen attempt to launder money.
“This was a pretty brazen attempt to take money out of the country – Kamaryt’s suitcases contained very little else other than wads of cash,” said Ian Truby, NCA’s Heathrow operations manager.
“I’ve no doubt he knew this money was the profits of crime and would have ended up being reinvested in further criminal activity. He didn’t care about the impact.
“Cash is the lifeblood of organised crime. Working with partners like Border Force we are determined to do all we can to disrupt that flow of illicit finance and target the money launderers involved.”
Kamaryt, originally from the Czech Republic, tried to board a flight to Dubai on November 8 last year.
He checked in three suitcases for the flight – each was stuffed full of vacuum-packed packages of cash totalling more than £1.3 million.
Another £50,000 was found in his carry-on hand luggage, including bundles of £50 notes stuffed inside his socks.
He initially told Border Force officers he was a currency trader and intended to use the money to buy watches.
In interviews with the NCA [Kamryt] refused to say who had given him the money, or where he had planned to take it
Investigators discovered he had bought the vacuum packaging at a high street hardware shop days before the scheduled travel.
The credit card used to buy the bags was in his possession at the time of his arrest.
They also found documents detailing how much money was in each bag.
In interviews with the NCA he refused to say who had given him the money, or where he had planned to take it.
He pleaded guilty to money-laundering offences at Isleworth Crown Court and was sentenced to two years and two months’ imprisonment.
The money was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
A 26-year-old woman arrested at Heathrow at the same time as Kamaryt was later released without further action.
A month before Kamaryt was caught, British woman Tara Hanlon was stopped at Heathrow, allegedly attempting to smuggle £2 million in five suitcases to Dubai.
Ms Hanlon, 30, was charged with money laundering and is scheduled to stand trial in the UK later this year.
He was jailed for two years in March after pleading guilty to money laundering offences, according to the NCA.
Eight other people, arrested in a series of raids in May of this year at locations in London, Surrey, West Yorkshire, and Greater Manchester, were released under investigation while inquiries continue.
Hanlon’s arrest stunned her grandmother who claimed she was a hard-working career woman who ‘would never get involved in crime’.
Daily mail interview
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline before her granddaughter admitted the crime, Maureen Downs, 80, said: ‘I know my granddaughter and she would never do anything like what she is accused of.
She has a heart of gold. She is a lovely girl and she had never, ever been in in trouble.’
Suggesting her ‘naive’ granddaughter may have been the victim of a set up, she added: ‘I want to know if somebody switched her bags.
I can’t see her having the confidence to go through an airport like that.’
Mrs Downs said Hanlon was devastated by the loss of her mother at the end of March last year, saying: ‘My daughter died and we lost another relative to cancer.
Tara was heartbroken. It has been a terrible year.’
She added: ‘I can’t sleep and I hope I am going to wake up from this nightmare.’
Her grandmother went on: ‘Tara has never taken any drugs. She has always worked and when she was 14 she had a job at a golf club.
She has always been working.
She was into partying.
She liked a bit of glamour did Tara.
‘She wanted to look like that Kardashian woman and she had her lips done like her.’
She said Tara had last been in a relationship four years ago, but her family were shocked to hear of her arrest as they didn’t even know she was flying to Dubai.
‘This has knocked us completely out,’ she said.
Kim, meanwhile, has been supporting her ex-husband Kanye West during his Donda album release.
The Keeping Up With The Kardashians star brought their children – North, Chicago, Saint and Psalm – along to support their father.
- Social media queen Kardashian West has parlayed reality TV into an actual fortune, selling a mobile game, cosmetics and, now, shapewear.
- The bulk of her wealth comes from her cosmetics and fragrance company KKW Beauty.
- In 2020, she sold 20% of the company to Coty for $200 million.
- She launched shapewear brand Skims in 2019. Forbes estimates her majority stake is worth a conservative $225 million.
- She launched Skims in 2019, an inclusive shapewear brand that raised $5 million from VC firm Imaginary Ventures.
- In February 2021, Kardashian filed for divorce from husband Kanye West. The couple have four children.