'Tahitian prince' expected to admit $16m Queensland Health fraud

Joel Morehu-Barlow led the high life in Brisbane, with designer suits and Lamborghinis. Photo / Supplied
Joel Morehu-Barlow led the high life in Brisbane, with designer suits and Lamborghinis. Photo / Supplied

An alleged New Zealand conman accused of defrauding more than $16 million from his former employer, Queensland Health, is expected to plead guilty.

Joel Morehu-Barlow, also known as Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, allegedly passed himself off as a Tahitian prince to friends and colleagues while living the high life in Brisbane.

The 37-year-old was arrested last December and was alleged to have defrauded the government department while working there between 2007 and last year.

His charges included two counts of aggravated fraud, two of aggravated forgery, one of aggravated uttering, two of possessing dangerous drugs, one of possessing a relevant substance and one of possessing drug utensils.

Yesterday in the Brisbane District Court, Judge Kerry O'Brien set a sentence date for Morehu-Barlow of March 20 next year.

Morehu-Barlow has not yet formally entered a plea to the charges, but his lawyer's confirmation yesterday that the matter would proceed straight to sentencing without a trial meant he would plead guilty.

David Shepherd, appearing for Morehu-Barlow, said prosecutors would present a new indictment, but it was possible some matters would be contested at sentencing.

Morehu-Barlow had worked for Queensland Health for five years when checks revealed millions of dollars appeared to have gone missing.

Authorities froze his assets and seized millions of dollars of property, some from family and friends, in a bid to recover some of the funds he allegedly siphoned off.

Morehu-Barlow grew up in Thames, and lived the high life in Australia, convincing people he was a rich, Tahitian prince. He had Louis Vuitton suits and Lamborghinis and rented a multimillion-dollar apartment. He was handsome and popular, and his photos regularly made the social pages.

- NZ Herald

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