After five years defrauding the company he worked for of more than $1.3 million, a high-flying executive needed a new partner in crime.

Andrew Mark Collins, 48, sent a message to a colleague explaining the scam in a bid to lure him in.

"Please don't send this email to anyone as I will be in the sh** big time," he wrote.

"I know this is not (a) legal (b) above board, but it may help both of us."

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The man, who worked in the IT department at media company APN, passed on the email and Collins' web of lies was exposed.

Last week - 15 years after the scam began - he appeared in Auckland District Court where he was jailed for four years, having pleaded guilty to 37 charges.

The delay in justice came about partly because police had to extradite Collins from England.

A separate High Court case was initiated by the Crown upon his return in August, which saw him forfeit the $250,000 he had put up as bail surety before absconding.

While in the role of APN chief information officer in 2001, Collins devised a scam with John Vere King who was the managing director of Expert Solution Providers Limited (ESP) - an IT contractor.

According to the summary of facts, over the next five years ESP would submit heavily-inflated invoices, which would be signed off by Collins.

King would then pay his co-offender for "consulting services".

Both men profited but a police investigation found it was Collins who got the bulk of the cash - $883,837.

In 2007, King sold ESP to Richard Crabb.

Desperate to continue the lucrative fraud, Collins approached him and tried to entice the new boss.

When Mr Crabb declined, the defendant looked for allies within APN, which eventually led to his downfall.

Collins' lawyer Paul Wicks, QC, said his client's actions were not motivated by trying to fund a frivolous lifestyle with "extravagant overseas travel".

He had simply bought a house in the upmarket suburb of Remuera that in hindsight he realised he could not afford.

Other personal reasons were suppressed by Judge Russell Collins but he said he gave the explanation little weight.

"In some ways this fraud could be described as extremely effective because of its simplicity," he said.

"In an almost oxymoronic expression, it was sophisticated by its simplicity and extremely difficult to detect because you had that level of trust."

The judge described the offending as "very grave" and refused to give Collins any credit for being a first offender because of the period of time the fraud spanned.

THE EMAIL

Collins to IT department staffer (March 29, 2007)

I was doing some trading . . . with a mate of mine with his company and this was working for both of us, but he has just sold his company and this has come to a stop.

Please don't send this email to anyone as I will be in the sh** big time.

What we were doing was . . . he would invoice me for xxxxx at work . . . I would approve the invoice. I would then send him an invoice from my company for 70% of the invoice . . . he would pay this.

I know this is not (a) legal (b) above board but it may help both of us