Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Business Insider: Scam artists - it's still a man's game

High-profile female offenders are the exception, not the rule.
Sushila Devi Mosese. Michael Craig
Sushila Devi Mosese. Michael Craig

An attempt to sketch the typical white-collar crook might suggest - falsely - that fraud is a feminine pursuit in this country.

Auditing giant KPMG recently released its latest findings on the "global scourge" of fraud. Its survey, which pooled details of 750 fraudsters from around the world, paints a familiar picture of the average con artist.

Based on KPMG's portrait, the typical scammer, swindler or charlatan is overwhelmingly likely to be male, aged 36 to 55 and work for the organisation they are ripping off.

The proportion of women in the survey has risen from 13 to 17 per cent since 2010, but fraud remains an overwhelmingly male domain.

Not that you'd think so when perusing the local cases put forward by KPMG. Only two New Zealand rogues were included in the study, and Business Insider was surprised to learn both were women.

The pair submitted by KPMG both swindled their former employers, but their identities were not revealed as part of the exercise, and one was not even prosecuted because her victim decided not to take the case to the authorities.

While Business Insider contends that women white-collar criminals are the exception rather than the rule, there have been some recent high-profile female fraudsters.

They include Tessa Grant, who this year pleaded guilty to defrauding Waikato Diocesan School for Girls of $795,000. Grant is also is being chased by SkyCity for more than $1.2 million in allegedly "unexplained transactions" during the time she worked at its Hamilton casino.

Another example is Jane Rose, who last month was sentenced to nine months' home detention for assisting her estranged husband in obtaining $2.2 million by deception from Mighty River Power.

Still not sorry

The Auckland woman who stole nearly $4.5 million from transport company Mainfreight will remain in jail until at least December after being denied parole for a second time.

Sushila Devi Mosese was Mainfreight's longstanding credit controller. She collected outstanding invoices and deposited payment cheques into a bank account with a similar name to the company. She was sentenced to four years, six months' jail in 2014.

The 53-year-old came before a parole board in March and a psychologist's opinion said she showed a "continued valuing of success and financial goals and her lack of remorse in relation to the victims of the offending, indicate that she remains at high risk of further offending".

Nevertheless, her overall risk of reoffending was deemed low if she stayed away from financial work.

But, said board chairman Justice Warwick Gendall, "We are not satisfied that with a period of two and a half years to run on Ms Mosese's sentence she would not be an undue risk over that time."

Mosese is due to go back before a parole board in December.

False witness

Auckland lawyer Bharat Parshotam has been suspended from the profession for nine months after falsely witnessing documents he didn't see his clients sign.

Parshotam - a Mt Roskill lawyer described by the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal as "very experienced and busy" with clients mostly from the Hindi and Gujarati communities - in May admitted two charges of negligence or incompetence, following complaints about Parshotam falsely witnessing documents he had not seen clients sign.

In one case, a husband forged his wife's signature on documents related to a loan against their property, which she knew nothing of.

Although there was no suggestion Parshotam knew of this forgery, he allowed his client to take the documents away to be signed. Parshotam then compounded this error by certifying he had properly witnessed the signatures.

The woman discovered her home had been sold without her knowledge, and subsequently discovered her husband's forgery.

Parshotam also assured a colleague that he had witnessed the woman's signature.

"It is troubling that Mr Parshotam was prepared to lie to another solicitor about his own client, and at a time when he was aware that the lender was taking steps to enforce the mortgage over the home," the tribunal said in its decision this week.

When the woman complained to the Law Society, Parshotam denied the wrongdoing. "This was not just a bare denial. It was a four-page letter of elaborate deception and blaming of his client," the tribunal said.

Lawyer fights back

A struck-off lawyer is fighting a Serious Fraud Office prosecution and has denied dishonesty charges.

Edward Errol Johnston has pleaded not guilty to three charges alleging he dishonestly used a document. He is due back in the Auckland District Court in August.

The 59-year-old, who was discharged from bankruptcy in March, was struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors in 2013 after admitting charges brought by the Law Society. He had previously practised in Henderson.

Johnston, according to the Serious Fraud Office, owned properties in Auckland and in late 2011 and early 2012 had fallen into arrears on loan repayments. When needing to reduce his debt, Johnston allegedly gave his bank false sale and purchase agreements.

"In reality, the properties were either sold for a higher price than he had stated, or transferred to another trust and refinanced with a loan from another bank," the SFO alleged in April. It alleged he also submitted a false statement of assets and liabilities to the bank.

- NZ Herald

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Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Hamish Fletcher has made a specialty over the last two years of covering court cases stemming from the collapse of finance companies after the Global Financial Crisis. A business journalist for three years, he is especially interested in commercial disputes.

Read more by Hamish Fletcher

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