Pokere in with other church fraudsters

By Nicola Boyes

Former All Black Steven Pokere, who is in jail for $3.9 million fraud, was also involved with another group of fraudsters who got away with $14.6 million, it can now be revealed.

Pokere, 47, a star on the rugby field between 1981 and 1985 and a devout Mormon, is serving a 2 1/2-year jail sentence for his part in ripping off investors who put money into FF Traders, a company he set up with fellow church-goers.

But the Weekend Herald can now reveal that FF Traders received money from another business, also run by Mormons fleecing investors from within the church.

Pokere, who has limited business experience, was in charge of FF Traders' accounts, but also recruited investors, including Rotorua company Lakeland Wealth Creators, run by Mormon couple Bill and Lee Papple.

His business associate, Tina Marie West, 46, was a co-director of Lakeland Wealth.

Both West and Lee Papple were sentenced in the Rotorua District Court in May to five years in jail after being found guilty of defrauding about 100 investors between 2000 and 2002.

Bill Papple was sentenced last week to two years in jail for conspiring to defraud but many of the details were suppressed until now.

The Papples put $750,000 through Pokere's business, money that was supposedly going into an investment in China.

Investors in Lakeland Wealth, as in Pokere's FF Traders, were promised returns from the overseas investments of up to 100 per cent, with their principal sums assured, but much of the money went into high-risk overseas investments run by more sophisticated fraudsters, and many investors lost everything.

Judge Roderick Joyce said Pokere was humble, community-minded, a wonderful husband, father and provider and fundamentally a decent and honest man except for being involved in the fraud.

"He is yet another of the all-too-many people who fall foul of the awful temptations of greed."

David Orrell, whose his mother June invested with FF Traders, said he could not believe Pokere had been involved. Mr Orrell had met Pokere when the former All Black was working in sales for water cooler company Just Water after moving to Auckland from Christchurch.

"He came across as a really genuine, nice guy" but was not business-savvy, said Mr Orrell.

A retired Dunedin geologist, who did not want to be named because of embarrassment at being fleeced, became involved with the Papples after hearing about the business through the Mormon Church.

He lost $135,000 and had to sell the family home.

The Papples' standing in the church led many people to put their trust in them, said the man.

"It all seemed like a blessing. That's why we got involved."

The money he and his wife lost was for their retirement.

"It means I have to work. It means we had to sell our house and build again. That's what we're doing now in order to release capital and hopefully have some pocket-money left over to help us in the years when we are not earning," he said, the bitterness clearly evident in his voice.

Also ripped off were high-flying Auckland businessman Paul Hyslop and a policeman.

Another investor and a former head of the Rotorua Mormon Church, Gerrard Brons, believes the Papples were duped by overseas fraudsters.

But liquidators say the couple bought two homes, jewellery and paintings.

"They lived well above their station in life," said liquidator Kim Thompson.

It is estimated Pokere was paid between $110,000 and $180,000 while he was involved in FF Traders.

Mr Thompson is also the liquidator for that company but it has no assets. Pokere and his wife Lesley were declared bankrupt in September last year.


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