Conman accused of using Lomu's name in scam

By Edward Gay

Loizos Michaels. File photo / NZ Herald
Loizos Michaels. File photo / NZ Herald

An accused conman used Jonah Lomu's name when buying luxury Taupo apartments and duped investors into thinking he was planning a takeover of SkyCity, a court has heard.

Loizos Michaels went on trial at Auckland District Court today, facing 31 Serious Fraud Office charges relating to $3 million of alleged deception offences.

In her opening address, Crown prosecutor Christine Gordon told of Michaels' attempts to buy 12 apartments at Sacred Waters, a luxury lakeside complex in Taupo.

Ms Gordon said Michaels stayed at the apartments under the name Michael Callis and struck up a business relationship with co-owner Janet Jackson.

She said Ms Jackson believed Michaels was a wealthy man who wore gold jewellery, Rolex watches and drove late-model BMWs.

He persuaded Ms Jackson to help him buy 12 apartments at the complex. She would buy them from her co-owners and then sell them to Michaels.

Ms Gordon said Michaels told her his money was in a Belgian bank account and his backers needed some security. He convinced her to make several payments worth more than $350,000 to ensure the sales.

Michaels also told Ms Jackson to change the name on the sale and purchase agreement to All Black great Jonah Lomu, Ms Gordon said.

"Note that Jonah Lomu did not authorise his name to be used."

Ms Jackson was not Michaels' only alleged victim, Ms Gordon said.

Two senior casino executives were taken in by the promise of $1m salaries after Michaels told them he was backed by casino giant Melco, owned by the wealthy Ho family in Macau.

Over two months in 2007, Michaels and an associate lost more than $160,000 at the Christchurch Casino and were identified by staff as VIP players.

That brought Michaels into contact with casino chief executive Stephen Lyttelton and gaming manager Peter Arbuckle.

Michaels eventually convinced the pair his family owned a shipping line operating from Cyprus and that he worked for Melco, Ms Gordon said.

Michaels "presented a carefully crafted picture" as he discussed intimate details of the casino industry and told the pair his bosses were planning a takeover of SkyCity.

Michaels offered both men jobs with $1m salaries before both resigned their positions at the Christchurch casino.

Ms Gordon said he told them the Ho family wanted them to invest in Melco. Between May and August 2007, Mr Lyttelton made 12 transactions totalling $610,000 to Michaels.

Both men were threatened with the sack if they did not invest money. Michaels also told them to find investors for an online gaming website he was building.

Ms Gordon said family members of the men and other investors pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the non-existent scheme.

In reply, Michaels' lawyer Peter Kaye said the court should consider whether his client ever made "representations" to the alleged victims, and if he had, what was their loss.

The trial before Judge Christopher Field alone, is set down for eight weeks and due to hear from 50 witnesses.

- APNZ

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