On Friday, July 19, 2019, Australian social media influencer and model Hannah Rebecca Valentine, best known for Instagram posts of herself casually wearing bikinis, was sentenced at Perth Magistrates Court for committing 53 fraud offences since age 18. After previously pleading guilty, the now 19-year-old Perth resident received a conviction for all of the charges. Yet, many people are outraged because the judge, Court Magistrate Thomas Hall, only ordered Valentine to complete 240 hours of community service and remain under intensive supervision for a year as punishment for her crimes. They believe that the type and number of fraud events along with the impact that she had on her victims warranted a much more severe punishment involving jail time.
Valentine’s fraudulent behavior began in December 2017 on Facebook and Gumtree. She would set up a fake account under the alias Daniella Walsh, HannahVal, Hannah Jane Mathews, Jessica Lewis, Natalia Sparrow or Sophie-Marie Lewis and then offer people the chance to buy tickets for upcoming major concerts and music-related events, such as a Post Malone concert or the Listen Out and Sets on the Beach music festivals. Additionally, she would search for and target people online who wanted tickets for specific events.
Once she had a buyer, she would instruct them to transfer money to any one of three valid bank accounts and then send them fake, invalid or altered tickets or nothing at all. Valentine also stole credit card information while working as a salon beauty therapist: She manipulated a customer who forgot to bring money to an appointment into sending her the card information after the appointment by text message and then bought $5,189 in products and services between November and December of 2018 using the card details.
The purchases included beauty items, clothes, tickets, food and transportation. Members of the Western Australian Police Force became aware of Valentine’s crimes after Victorian Police received two separate fraudulent ticket sale complaints and passed off the case to them. During their investigation, the WA police force discovered that Valentine bilked over a 100 music lovers out of approximately $10,000 via the concert tickets scam alone. Approximately $4,000 came from selling 24 people the same two invalid music event tickets between August and November of 2018.
Valentine’s defense attorney, Kylie Ferridge, attempted to convince the judge to give the teenager a lesser sentence and a future spent conviction to eventually clear her record. Ferridge pointed out that Valentine previously pleaded guilty, participated in victim offender mediation, repaid her victims, closed her social media accounts, moved out of her parents’ home, lost her job, boyfriend and several friends, experienced difficulty with making enough money to live on her own and dealt with mockery and assault in public. She also emphasized that Valentine felt sincere remorse and intended to pursue a nursing career.
Although Court Magistrate Thomas Hall took some of these factors into account, he denied the spent conviction request. He noted during the sentencing that Valentine was “motivated by greed and selfishness.” He also spoke about how her actions adversely impacted her victims at events and financially. It was revealed by Hall during the sentencing that Valentine’s parents actually repaid most of her victims. It’s unknown at this point whether Valentine has truly learned her lesson or if she might fall back eventually on stealing money again via what she told police were “easy” scams.