A Mosgiel man who fleeced long-time friends and members of his church of $300,000 has been sent to prison for three years and four months on fraud charges.
"You saw some of these people as easy pickings. It's greedy and there's no other word for it," Judge Michael Crosbie told Brent Garry Murray, 45, a computer salesman.
Murray was up for sentence in the Dunedin District Court yesterday on four charges of fraud and one of using a document to obtain pecuniary advantage.
He initially denied the charges relating to $297,712.50 provided him by four victims whom he had promised to repay, but pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial at Invercargill on November 5.
Murray approached associates and friends between 2008 and 2010 and made up situations and stories to get them to provide him money.
A police summary of facts said that in one case he told friends he had been given a Lotteries Commission grant to provide computers to a women's refuge, but had to raise the same amount himself first before the grant would be released.
In another, he told the same people he needed money urgently to pay a builder and had a mortgage extension pre-approved, but there was a delay in releasing the money.
Those victims became aware of the ruse when they were contacted as unsecured creditors when his business was liquidated, even though they never gave him any money for his business. They were $10,000 out of pocket.
He told a church friend, who invested $225,000 in his business, that he had a major contract to supply electrical goods to an Australian company, and supplied faked documentation to prove it.
Another friend lent him $10,000 because he said he was about to lose his home.
Murray told the person he was going to sell his car and pay them back, but it was later discovered his car was heavily financed.
In another case, he faked an invoice for supplies so a $48,712.50 loan could be raised from a finance company to repay another loan he took, leaving the person who originally loaned him the money to repay the finance company.
Judge Crosbie said Murray's offending was large scale, serious fraud and the most aggravating factor of it was the gross abuse of trust involved.
His victims had suffered a great deal as a result of his actions, he told Murray.
"They feel guilty at not stopping you earlier, but they shouldn't because those who manipulate people through trust and friendship invariably win people over. That's human nature."
They were stressed and the relationships of some of the victims had been affected, and many of them had been harmed financially as a result. One couple could not buy the house they had planned to; others had to increase their own mortgages.
Crown counsel John Young, of Invercargill, submitted Murray's prime motivator was greed, while Murray's counsel Brian Kilkelly submitted he was a proud man who did not want people to know his computer equipment supply business, BGSM Enterprises, was failing and he was doing everything he could to keep it afloat.
Judge Crosbie told Murray: "If you see people as an easy fix to help you out of a bind, and you go back to them, there has to be an element of greed."
The only mitigating factor of the offending was his guilty plea, but it was too late to make any real difference to the sentence, the judge said.
There were no aggravating factors personal to Murray, who had no relevant previous convictions. Mr Kilkelly put it that he was remorseful and would apologise face to face to his victims if he could.
Judge Crosbie said if Murray was a Christian person, of course he should have some remorse.
In these cases, the court often distinguished between the types of victims, financial institutions for example, could likely withstand losses more readily than individuals.
From a starting point of three years and nine months' jail, the judge discounted five months for the late guilty plea, which at least meant the victims did not have to go through the experience of giving evidence at trial.
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