Investors hit twice in scams, court told

Investors in a failed upmarket Parnell apartment development were the victims of two Nigerian-type scams, a depositions hearing in the Auckland District Court was told yesterday.

In the first "advance fee fraud," as the Serious Fraud Office calls them, investors lost hundreds of thousands of dollars when American fraudster Greg Dutcher promised he would lend money for a housing scheme in St Stephens Ave, but investors had to put in money first.

After their money disappeared, they were told a rescue package was being put together.

But the SFO says they were stung again when it turned out to be another advance fee fraud - this time a classic Nigerian scam in which investors lost more than $2 million.

Before the court are 65-year-old Patricia Lenine Mabel Walsh, who faces 89 charges of fraud, forgery and theft, and her 78-year-old aunt, Elva Mary Medhurst, accused of two charges of theft.

The SFO says that Walsh told many of the investors in the failed apartment scheme that an overseas charitable trust or a Christian benefactor who helped out people in dire straits would recoup their losses on the project.

But they had to pay expenses and fees involved in getting the trust's money to New Zealand.

The SFO claims that Walsh was putting their money into a Nigerian scam related to the supposed supply of computers to the Nigerian National Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Walsh was said to be expecting to make US$28 million, but she also was duped.

A former partner in an Auckland law firm told Judge Simon Lockhart, QC, that he lost $400,000 in the apartment failure and another $1.2 million trying to get his money back.

The SFO says Walsh sent his $1.2 million to Nigeria with other investors' money.

The lawyer, who like all the complainants has name suppression, told the court Dutcher was due to stand trial in the United States on fraud charges but committed suicide last month.

He told the court that he had been seeking $8 million from the rescue package, supposedly financed by Middle East oil money, to pay taxes and creditors and provide for his child's education.

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