David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

$18m conman wins parole but loses wife

Versalko says he is 'deeply remorseful' for bank fraud but his spouse has moved on

Stephen Versalko spent a fortune on prostitutes, fine wine and hotels where they were entertained. Photo / Dean Purcell
Stephen Versalko spent a fortune on prostitutes, fine wine and hotels where they were entertained. Photo / Dean Purcell

Stephen Versalko, the ASB Bank fraudster who stole $18 million, will be released from prison this month, but his wife has moved on.

Versalko, the ASB Bank's Remuera investment adviser-turned-fraudster who spent $3.4 million of his stolen wealth on prostitutes, was granted parole yesterday after serving the minimum four years of a six-year sentence. He told the Parole Board he was "deeply remorseful and ashamed" and "will never again work in the financial sector or hold a position of financial responsibility".

The discovery of the crime left his wife, primary school teacher Megan Versalko, in turmoil. The couple lived in a plush Remuera property with their three children, enjoying wealth she was told came from smart investments.

Over just six months, the illusion was smashed as Versalko was first fired from ASB Bank for fraud and then jailed in 2010 after pleading guilty to a Ponzi scheme.

It emerged the money was spent supporting a lifestyle of indulgence and luxury with a fortune spent on prostitutes and the fine wine and hotels with which they were entertained.

As he went to prison, Versalko's family said his wife would stand by him. But a year later she had moved to Auckland's North Shore and changed her Facebook profile to say she was in a relationship with a new man, tradesman Malcolm Pentecost.

The Herald was told this year that Megan, 52, was planning her future with the new man - and not her former husband. A source close to the family said she had left Versalko and was fulfilled both personally and professionally. She declined to comment yesterday.

One elderly victim, who has name suppression, said she had learned Megan had left him. "He's lost his family too, I imagine," she said. "All you can say is he's paid his dues. Presumably he's learned his lesson."

She said ASB Bank had covered all losses from the fraud.

"He was such an inconsequential little man. You would never have thought he would do what he did. But he was a very clever man. I don't know how he wasn't caught sooner."

Versalko's appeal for freedom came before the Parole Board, led by Judge Richard Watson, at minimum security Rangipo prison in the central North Island. There was no mention of family or his wife in the report issued later.

Instead, he told the board he had a solid plan for his release from prison and support from someone who had also offered somewhere to live.

The Parole Board report stated he was considered at a low risk of reoffending so was not placed in any rehabilitation programme.

Versalko will be released on February 25.

The fraud emerged after one of his clients saw a documentary on US fraudster Bernie Madoff.

At the time of his conviction, Versalko was guilty of carrying out the biggest employee theft in New Zealand history.

The Stephen Versalko case

August 2009: ASB Bank says it has fired an employee for fraud. Stephen Versalko is identified as the employee. Versalko stole $17.8m from wealthy ASB clients, who thought the money was being invested, over a nine-year period.

February 2010: Versalko pleads guilty to fraud, admitting he spent millions of dollars on prostitutes and luxury living. A month later he is sentenced to six years in prison.

March 2011: On Facebook Megan Versalko lists herself as in a relationship with tradesman Malcolm Pentecost.

February 2014: Versalko is granted parole, saying he will never again work in financial services.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 26 Jul 2014 12:40:56 Processing Time: 791ms