A Rotorua nurse convicted of laundering more than $300,000 of drug money has had her registration cancelled.
The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal last month made the decision to cancel Linda Olive Aldworth’s registration as a nurse on the basis of her criminal conviction.
Aldworth was convicted of money laundering in October 2016 and was sentenced to 10.5 months home detention. Her Rotorua home and other assets were seized by police under the proceeds of crime act.
The grandmother, who had been a nurse since 1974, was arrested at the conclusion of Operation Gandolf which targeted the activities of an organised criminal group which imported and distributed methamphetamine throughout New Zealand.
Her husband, Mohamed Atta who was already in Rimutaka prison serving an unrelated sentence, was the ringleader of the group and organised to import drugs from a supplier in Thailand.
Atta used cellphones smuggled in to prison to arrange the sale and charged a commission of $5000 per 100g of methamphetamine imported.
Aldworth then received the money on behalf of her husband and distributed it to associates in New Zealand and family overseas. She also spent a significant amount buying a $24,000 car, a spa pool and a lounge suite.
Over about 18 months she received more than $340,000 from unidentified sources – more than $3600 a week above her legitimate income – and operated 12 bank accounts, two of which were in her grandchildren’s names.
She transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to family and associates in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and throughout New Zealand. Among those payments were 113 transactions worth $13,000 to 61 prisoners as well as payments to a Rimutaka prison guard who had been corrupted by Atta.
She admitted distributing money for Atta when interviewed by police and pleaded guilty to the money laundering charge.
At the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal hearing Aldworth contended she was a suitable candidate for rehabilitation and should not have her registration cancelled.
She argued the offending was not deliberate but that she “naively closed her eyes to what was happening” but now accepted what she did was wrong.
“I was living in a make-believe world that he was looking after me and loving me again, without thinking about where the money was coming from,” she told the tribunal.
She said she was not aware the money had come from his involvement in a drug ring.
Aldworth also contended the offending had come at a vulnerable period in her life, was out of character and did not endanger the safety of her patients. She apologised for her offending.
But the tribunal agreed her offending was so serious the only appropriate penalty was cancellation.
“The practitioner’s offending was so serious and sustained that we consider it is not
tenable to permit the practitioner to retain registration. This is not so much to
punish the practitioner but rather to ensure the protection of the public and maintain
professional standards for the profession of nursing,” the tribunal concluded in their decision which was released today.
Aldworth now works as a kitchen steward in a hotel and has lived in a rental with her daughter and grandchildren since her assets were seized.