Acting Business Editor for the NZ Herald

Business Insider: Many names, many charges for fraudster

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Eli Devoy strides into court. Photo / Greg Bowker
Eli Devoy strides into court. Photo / Greg Bowker

A woman at the heart of a $9.2 million mortgage racket has previous fraud convictions, Business Insider can reveal.

Eli Devoy, was found guilty yesterday on a raft of charges, including 17 for obtaining by deception, two for dishonestly using a document and one of using forged documents.

The 47-year-old, who has also gone the name Ellie Stone , (which is a translation of her birth name Sarsangi) and Eli Ghorbani, was acquitted on two of the charges she faced.

Devoy was at the centre of a mortgage fraud, where banks lent millions on the back of false information and where properties were bought and sold between family and friends.

The offending, which took place took place July 2007 and December 2010, followed a pattern where those involved would purchase a property at a reduced price, often at a mortgagee sale.

Properties, in some instances, were sold on the same day for a higher price to a related party.

Some of the Auckland woman's family was also involved in the scheme, which Serious Fraud Office says involved 11 properties and $9.2 million.

Devoy's brothers, Mehrdad Ghorbani and Mehrzad Ghorbani, were found guilty yesterday of six charges and four charges, respectively, of obtaining by deception.

Her sister-in-law, Nasrin Kardani, was found guilty of three charges for obtaining by deception and Devoy's brother-in-law Hassan Salarpour was acquitted on three of the same charges. An associate of Devoy, Javad Toraby, was found not guilty of two charges.

Prosecutor Todd Simmonds said yesterday a sentence of imprisonment was inevitable for Devoy when she and the other offenders come back to the Auckland District Court on August 17.

The charges she was found guilty of carry maximum penalties ranging from three to 10 years' jail.

Judge Brooke Gibson granted Devoy bail but told her:

"You will be getting a custodial sentence."

During yesterday's hearing when the judge revealed his verdicts, Simmonds said Devoy had previous convictions for fraud.

While revealing she was convicted on six fraud-related charges, the prosecutor did not go into more detail.

Aladdin's Cave

When the police and SFO raided the Eastern Beach home of Devoy and her husband in 2012, Judge Gibson said they found a "veritable Aladdin's cave of compromising material" in the form of bank statements, loan applications, and notes confirming payment of various deposits as well as hard disks, laptops and a PC.

Amongst the trove was a note to Devoy from her husband, entreating her to remain in their marriage.

"To make it work I promise to totally stop complaining about fraud if you promise to stop talking as if I am the cause of all your problems," the note said.

Devoy's explanation of the note was that it was a warning about fraud and concerned a real estate agent.

"I have found that Mrs Devoy was very much at the centre of the various frauds perpetrated on the banks. Mr Devoy had good reason to be concerned about his wife's activities," Judge Gibson said.

Christopher John Robinson's suit against IAG faces a challenge. Photo / NZME
Christopher John Robinson's suit against IAG faces a challenge. Photo / NZME

Lawsuit challenge

Insurance giant IAG is moving to throw out a lawsuit brought against it by a now-convicted blackmailer whose luxury Northland home burned down half a decade ago.

Christopher John Robinson was last week sentenced to nine months' home detention after he attempted to blackmail the insurance company and get $5 million from it.

Robinson's home inland from Kerikeri, was destroyed by fire in 2011.

Robinson, now 68 and bankrupt, was charged with arson after the fire, but this was withdrawn last year.

State Insurance, an IAG brand, declined Robinson's claim after concluding the fire was deliberately lit.

In May 2013, Robinson emailed IAG's lawyer and suggested a settlement offer either immediately in confidence or openly through the media.

Two more threatening emails were sent that month. Robinson's threats included using a website to destroy IAG's reputation, unless his monetary demands were met.

Since Robinson's sentencing, a halt on a High Court civil suit he and his wife launched against the company in 2013 has lifted.

It was revealed during a brief hearing before Justice John Faire in Auckland on Wednesday that IAG is applying to strike out the Robinsons' claim.

The case is due to come back before the court later this month.

$6 million whoopsy

An Auckland real estate firm involved in the bungled sale of a $6million beachfront mansion has been tipped into liquidation by the property's former owners.

James and June Messenger, who live in Guernsey Island, bought the Milford house in 2004 as a holiday home, albeit one with an indoor pool, a wine cellar and a rustic finish that made it feel like an "Italian mansion by the sea".

However, they put it on the market two years later after James had heart surgery.

The couple had visited the mansion only once.

The pair used the North Shore's Stanaway Real Estate to sell the 800sq m property.

While an $6 million offer for the property was accepted, with payment to be staggered across two years, problems with the contract led to a dispute about whether the settlement date was in December 2006 or December 2008.

No payments were made and the market had sunk by the time the Messengers resold the mansion in March 2009 for $4.4 million.

The Messengers sued the purchasers to recover the difference. They were awarded $2.9 million by the Court of Appeal in 2012, but the purchasers were declared bankrupt and the couple recovered nothing.

The Messengers also launched separate action against Stanaway and were awarded $2.2 million in damages last year.

Justice Mark Woolford, who heard the case, said last July that a reasonably competent real estate agent would have sought confirmation of a settlement date. The judge also said a competent agent would have advised the Messengers to insert a standard vendor finance clause into the agreement.

Business Insider understands an appeal was lodged against this decision, but was later called off.

The Messengers have since moved to have Stanaway wound up and the High Court appointed liquidator Christopher Horton to the firm last week.

- NZ Herald

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Acting Business Editor for the NZ Herald

Hamish Fletcher started out his career covering court cases stemming from the collapse of finance companies after the Global Financial Crisis. A business journalist for six years, he is especially interested in commercial disputes.

Read more by Hamish Fletcher

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