Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Conman preyed on friends

Jail for 'Walter Mitty' character who plundered thousands from his mates.

Susie Newbegin and Laurence Oliver believe they were victims of fraud at the hands of Tony Allison. Photo / Michael Craig
Susie Newbegin and Laurence Oliver believe they were victims of fraud at the hands of Tony Allison. Photo / Michael Craig

A stockbroker who stole $1.1 million from friends and clients to fund a lavish lifestyle has been jailed for 4 years.

Anthony Malbon Allison, known as Tony, offered to take care of the finances of family friends and wealthy clients he met through the Parnell Tennis Club. He then plundered their bank accounts.

Allison, described as a delusional "Walter Mitty" character, fled to Australia in 2000 and was only arrested in 2007 when he returned to attend his daughter's wedding.

Victim Susie Newbegin said Allison was pallbearer at her mother's funeral. She looked up to him like a big brother.

He offered to take care of Newbegin's finances free of charge but when she received a call from him saying he needed to borrow $100,000 she knew something was wrong. She then realised he had taken nearly $500,000 of her money.

"I kept thinking it was a bad dream," Newbegin said.

"Friends do not do things like that to you."

Newbegin was forced to sell her house on Waiheke Island and sell cars. Her health also suffered. She said Allison was from a "newer version of the old boys' network".

His father was a partner in a Wellington stockbroking firm and he is said to have worked for merchant bankers Fay Richwhite.

He had also been a one-time confidant and tennis partner of another disgraced financier, Rod Petricevic.

Another victim, Alyson Burdon, sister of former Government minister Philip Burdon, lost around $435,000.

In court documents, Burdon said she trusted Allison in part because his uncle was the family vicar.

Laurence Oliver lost $150,000 after answering an advert for Allison's Budget Sharebrokers company in the late 1990s.

Allison ploughed money into failed business ventures, including a gym at the Penrith Panthers Rugby League club in western Sydney.

But as successive business ventures faltered, Allison maintained his taste in expensive boats and property. He took on new clients to pay the interest owing to older ones.

Oliver, a manager at Consolidated Chemicals, lost most of his retirement savings and said there were no limits to Allison's deception.

At Allison's bankruptcy hearing in 2000, he feigned a heart attack and was rushed to hospital in an ambulance.

However, it was a ruse. The next day he fled to Australia.

Even after pleading guilty in 2010, Allison was allowed to return to Australia after promising that he was on the verge of sealing a business deal.

Allison refused to return voluntarily and was extradited in July this year after police tracked him to the exclusive Point Piper suburb of Sydney.

Allison was sentenced at the Auckland District Court to 4 years' jail for offences including corruptly taking a commission, using a document for pecuniary advantage, false pretences and violating a direction.

Judge Gus Andree Wiltens said Allison had continually frustrated the court process by seeking "adjournment after adjournment after adjournment" through his lawyer, the late John Haigh, QC.

Allison even tried to complain that police had ruined his future career prospects by taking so long to bring him to justice.

Newbegin and Oliver said it was due to the tireless efforts of Auckland Financial Crime Unit senior forensic accountant Peter Preece, who spent nearly 14 years on the case, that Allison was brought to justice.

Preece said he was satisfied Allison was finally behind bars, describing him as a "bit of a Walter Mitty".

- Herald on Sunday

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