true crime

"I became trapped." Helen laundered $130,000 for people who threatened to kill her.

“Why make a fuss over a 48-year-old old bag Australian.

“I have no emotions, no reactions, no pity, no feeling.

“I just do my job and I love digging into people’s lives and destroying their careers.

“It’s my speciality, so you’re welcomed on board.”

This is one of the hundreds of sinister threats Helen Edwards received over four terrifying years.

She found herself wound up in international organised crime, and ended up laundering more than a million dollars to overseas bank accounts while being forced into submission by cruel death threats.

SBS Insight is looking into financial scams. Post continues after video.

Video via SBS

In 2010, Helen was busy building a charity providing wheelchairs for residents of underprivileged countries.

A man who called himself a ‘philanthropist from America’ got talking to her after finding her charity online, telling her he’d love to get involved and donate to her cause.

But it wasn’t just in a professional sense he be-friended her – asking about her life, telling her about his, adding her friends on Facebook.

“These guys know what they’re doing,” Helen told Mamamia. “They get into your life.”

The man told her he was winding up some of his late dad’s businesses and wanted to send her some of the money.

Next thing she knew, he’d FedExed her a donation in the form of a cheque for USD $130,000.

Helen admits she was suspicious from the start. “Surely the bank… the tax office… federal police, someone will question me if I bank this cheque? It’s such a large sum of international money?”

Nothing happened.

But then things took a turn, the man suddenly contacted Helen telling her there was an emergency and she had to transfer some of his donation (USD $70,000) offshore to the UK.

“No way,” was Helen’s original response.

But the man was very, very persistent and eventually manipulated her into doing it.

He then convinced her to transfer another chunk of money here, and another chunk there, until the whole $130,000 had been effectively ‘taken back’.

“I became trapped,” Helen told Mamamia. “It was like I was living a double life.”

Over the next few years they kept sending her money, and then forcing her to send it on to other bank accounts. A lot of the cheques were counterfeit but they looked so real the banks didn’t question them.

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She ended up moving a million dollars for them.

“They are so manipulative, and forceful. I became a walking person on eggshells,” said Helen.

“I got so trapped, so embarrassed and so ashamed. I was questioning them the whole time, but they always seemed to be able to produce evidence something was real, or convince me of their excuse of a story.”

As soon as she started to resist more strongly the blackmail started. It went from being manipulative, to threatening.

“They turned everything against me. They knew everything happening in my life [from befriending me] and used it against me,” said Helen.

“The way they get into your head… it’s extraordinary.”

There were instances where she was told people had been kidnapped and they’d die because she hadn’t sent them money owed to them.

“I don’t care anymore, just kill me,” she’d yell down the phone.

“I got thousands of emails and thousands of phone calls,” she said.

Helen got to the point where she’d lie in bed wondering how she would end her life.

“I would lie there crying and screaming,” said Helen. “I was such a mess, I was so scared.”

Eventually she managed to pry herself out of the grips of the scammers in 2014, by moving abroad and fading into the background.

They must have moved on to a new target.

Helen tried to get police involved on both a federal and then state level, but no one would listen.

She’s still trying to get police, the government, anyone involved to help her bring these scammers to justice five years later.

“No one will listen to me,” Helen told Mamamia. “One police officer told me it just sounded like a movie [script].”

“I am pretty disappointed by the non-action by the authorities,” she admitted.

Helen lost about $300,000 from the scammers herself, but it’s the time they stole and emotional turmoil they subjected her to, that she’s more concerned about.

“I am lucky to be alive,” she said. “These people have caused damages to my life, I’ve lost money, suffered PTSD. This is diabolical.”

Helen is worried about the other innocent Australians that might be currently doing the bidding of international criminals against their will. She is also terrified about what the results of being caught up in it all actually means from a criminal point of view.

“Have I been aiding terrorists?” said Helen.”I don’t know.”

“There’s probably people out there still living in fear because they are the victim of this,” Helen warned.

Helen is working with some international experts to put together her own agency to help combat corruption and to get to the bottom of her own experience as a victim of a financial scam.

Helen Edwards is a guest of Insight’s episode titled ‘Financial Scams’ airing tonight at 8.30pm on SBS

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