Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Fraudster hijacks Kiwi's name

Victim fears arrest when he next travels

Northland man Robin Cheer, whose identity was stolen by a wanted criminal.
Northland man Robin Cheer, whose identity was stolen by a wanted criminal.

A retired engineer was stunned to discover a Kiwi passport in his name has been used by a man on the FBI's Most Wanted list to pull off a $180 million fraud.

Now, 65-year-old Robin Cheer fears he'll be arrested if he travels overseas after Canadian Sandy Winick used a fake New Zealand passport to perpetrate an elaborate stock market scam.

Winick was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, last week after allegedly running an operation to defraud hundreds of investors in a "penny stock" scheme. The former TV executive is accused of selling and manipulating billions of worthless shares in what is known as a "pump and dump" operation.

Winick and his co-accused bought shell companies, promoted them with fictitious news releases and sold shares at highly inflated prices before the stocks crashed.

Cheer, from Whangarei, who takes regular overseas golfing holidays, said he was concerned he might be arrested on his next trip.

"It does alarm me. Will my name pop up on some sort of watchlist?"

Winick's fake passport in Cheer's name gave his birthdate as 1958 and Christchurch as his birthplace. Cheer was born 10 years earlier in Waipukurau.

Cheer said he wanted to know how the Canadian fraudster got his name.

Internal Affairs said it could not say where the passport was made but 2008 raids on a counterfeit passport factory in Thailand uncovered dozens of fake New Zealand passports.

It became aware of the particular passport, in Cheer's name, in 2011. A spokeswoman said it was difficult to replicate the security features of the New Zealand passport.

"There is a high probability that if someone tries to commit passport fraud they will be caught, as this individual has been."

She said New Zealand passports were often targeted because holders had visa-free access to more than 60 countries.

The trade in fake New Zealand passports hit a high of 86 in 2008. Since then, just 48 fake passports have been uncovered.

Internal Affairs added that spikes in the number of counterfeits led Thai authorities to raid fraudulent document "factories".

Winick faces 23 federal charges in the United States including conspiracy to commit securities fraud and impersonating a US official.

He was placed on the FBI's "wanted list" while the agency and the US Department of Justice sought him for allegedly masterminding stock and advance fee schemes.

Winick is accused of being behind dozens of penny stock securities fraud schemes, plus advance fee schemes, over the past five years.

He travelled between Canada, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam and elsewhere, allegedly using call centres to steal millions of dollars from victims all over the world.

The victims lived in nearly 35 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere in Asia, Europe, and South America.

- Herald on Sunday

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