'Poor little rich boy' gets home detention

By Abby Gillies, Edward Gay

Property hotshot escapes jail after faking debt to help friend escape bankruptcy.

Ralph Vuletic pleaded guilty to using a document to defraud. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Ralph Vuletic pleaded guilty to using a document to defraud. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A fallen property hotshot wants to move on after escaping a prison sentence for faking documents to try to save his friend from bankruptcy.

Ralph Anthony Vuletic, 31, was sentenced to nine months' home detention when he appeared in the High Court at Auckland yesterday.

He was facing Serious Fraud Office (SFO) charges after faking a debt to help friend and co-accused Marcus Friedlander avoid bankruptcy and dodge $10 million worth of bills from creditors nine years ago.

Vuletic had earlier pleaded guilty to using a document to defraud, attempting to pervert the course of justice and forging a document.

Friedlander is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to counts of making forged documents, three of using a document for a pecuniary advantage and two of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Vuletic's lawyer, Peter Winter, said his client was "very young and impressionable" when the offending happened and he had learnt from it.

"I think he's pleased that it's all been resolved and it's over. He certainly wants to put this behind him and move on," he said.

During a previous hearing Mr Winter said his client had not stood to gain financially from the offending and had been influenced by the older Friedlander.

However, the prosecution dismissed Vuletic's claim as the plea of "a poor little rich boy".

The sentencing caps a significant fall from grace. In 2003, Vuletic was considered the property industry's youngest "mover and shaker".

He was a 22-year-old who drove a Ferrari convertible at an age when most people struggled with student debt, owned a Walther PPK gun, the brand favoured by James Bond; and had a fulltime bodyguard, the National Business Review reported.

Vuletic told a law newsletter: "Cars speak plainly about success. People seem to be more impressed by what you drive than what you save."

Despite the pair's image, Friedlander was faced with failing property development and insurance brokering businesses, and owed more than $10 million to creditors.

To avoid bankruptcy and short-change his creditors, the pair created an "elaborate scheme", SFO acting chief executive Simon McArley said.

In sentencing yesterday, Justice Murray Gilbert said Vuletic forged a series of letters and a sale and purchase agreement to give the impression that his friend was owed $19 million.

Justice Gilbert said the aim was to convince his friend's creditors to stop bankruptcy action against him.

The ruse did not work and Friedlander was bankrupted in 2003.

Justice Gilbert said he accepted Vuletic made no gains from the forged documents.

In sentencing he made allowances for Vuletic's youth at the time of his offending - he was only 22 - but said the case against him was strong.

As well as nine months of home detention, Vuletic was ordered to stay off drugs and alcohol.

Outside court, Mr McArley said the case was important because it maintains the rights of creditors.

"If people are going to invest in our economy and in our markets [they] have to have confidence in the markets and the justice system."

Vuletic is named as a director of a number of struck-off companies on the Companies Office website.

In 2006, he was reprimanded by the Tenancy Tribunal for attempting to evict Orewa pensioners from flats to redevelop the properties.

- APNZ

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