Lawyer jailed over theft is struck off

By Edward Gay

Disgraced lawyer John David Rangitauira. Photo / Ben Fraser
Disgraced lawyer John David Rangitauira. Photo / Ben Fraser

A lawyer who spent other people's money after being duped by a $27 million email inheritance scam has been struck off.

John David Rangitauira was sentenced to four and a half years in jail when he appeared before the Auckland District Court in 2011 after being found guilty of four charges of obtaining by deception.

Now the experienced lawyer has had his distinguished career ended after the Lawyers and Conveyances Disciplinary Tribunal ordered that he be struck from the roll.

Rangitauira was duped after agreeing to help a client who got an email purporting to be from a 'Central Bank' about a massive inheritance.

She promised Rangitauira, a senior partner at a Rotorua firm, about $6 million if he helped her secure the cash.

When scammers demanded money to clear the inheritance, Rangitauira borrowed $506,000 from Westpac saying he needed it to buy property overseas.

He also used $338,834 from a Maori trust he chaired and did legal work for, telling trustees he was putting it in the bank.

His determination to help his client took him to Amsterdam where the pair were shown pallets of cash as proof of the inheritance but the money never arrived.

The disciplinary tribunal in Wellington found that Rangitauira's convictions had brought the legal profession into disrepute.

Rangitauira did not fight the move to have him struck off.

New Zealand Law Society President Jonathan Temm said the offending showed what happened when a senior lawyer lost sight of his professional responsibilities and allowed himself to become personally financially involved in the affairs of his client.

"Clients place a very high degree of trust in their lawyer, and any abuse of this is an extremely serious matter. Any lawyer who breaks the rules for the duty of care they owe their clients can expect that conduct to be reviewed.''

- APNZ

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