Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Best friend's $485k fraud betrayal

Jacqui Bradley appears at the Auckland District court. Photo / Greg Bowker
Jacqui Bradley appears at the Auckland District court. Photo / Greg Bowker

Kathleen McDermond thought she was a close friend of Jacqui Bradley and even celebrated her 50th birthday at the fraudster's multi-million dollar home in Remuera.

The pair met when their daughters started at St Cuthbert's College junior school almost 20 years ago.

Despite their close relationship, Ms McDermond said she was "betrayed" by Bradley, and lost the $485,000 she believed was safely invested with the former financial advisor.

When Bradley was found guilty of 75 fraud-related charges yesterday afternoon, Ms McDermond called it a "hollow victory".

"She has given me a life sentence because I can never recoup what I've lost. I now live from weekly pay to weekly pay," said Ms McDermond.

"I worry about something happening to my car and my washing machine, and how I would afford to pay for it."

Although Bradley may go to jail when she is sentenced in October, her former friend said that won't make her life any better.

Ms McDermond is one of the 28 investors who Bradley swindled out of around $15.5 million through her business, B'On Financial Services Ltd.

The fraudster ran the firm from the Vero building in downtown Auckland with her now-dead husband Mike Bradley.

The couple had been working together since the early 1980s, hosting public seminars and offering financial advice and services.

In 1988, Jacqui Bradley - then Jackie O'Neill - published The Winning Woman, a book on finances for women.

It was this that made some investors seek out Bradley and form a relationship with the fraudster.

Bradley's clients - who handed over millions of dollars - were told their money was securely invested with a Macquarie Bank fund in Australia, or had been used to buy New Zealand Government stock and gold futures.

But the Auckland District Court heard during Bradley's month-long trial that these investments did not exist.

Instead, client money was in a Ponzi-like scheme, being used by the Bradleys to repay other B'On investors and fund the couple's lifestyle.

Investors' money was spent on school fees, clothes shopping, payments on a BMW and the mortgage on a Remuera home that was valued at $4.7 million in 2008, the court heard.

However, prosecutors said, the B'On scheme was unsustainable and cracks began to show when investors tried to get money out in 2008 and 2009.

Witnesses who lost money in B'On spoke of the outlandish reasons Jacqui Bradley gave if money did not turn up in their accounts when scheduled.

In one instance the delay was blamed on a Japanese banking holiday.

Even as B'On was put into liquidation in December 2009, the Bradleys were telling investors their money was safe.

When the couple were being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office at the start of 2010, Ms McDermond said they still promised her money would be returned.

"How can someone be like that and actually look you in the eye, tell you everything is fine and they're actually lying their faces off? How do people do that?" she asked.

SFO chief executive Adam Feeley said Bradley's offending was part of a growing trend of "affinity fraud" that the public needed to wary of.

"It was a case where someone used their relationships with friends and acquaintances and exploited them to fund their lifestyle," Mr Feeley said.

"It is a growing problem and it's quite remarkable that people say 'I won't invest in finance companies or this that or the other because I don't trust them, I don't know them'.

"It creates such an opportunity for financial criminals who are willing to use their relationships with friends or friend-of-friends to attract investment."

Mike Bradley was facing charges alongside his wife, but he died last year aged 63.

Jacqui Bradley's lawyer, Ron Mansfield, said during the trial that his client had only an administrative role at B'On.

"Mike Bradley was the one that dealt with the receipt of the funds, the investment of those funds, the management of those funds and the reporting to clients in relation to the performance of the funds, not Jacqui Bradley," Mr Mansfield said.

But the Crown said Jacqui Bradley started to take a leading role in B'On Financial Services when Mike Bradley had a heart attack in 1997.

- NZ Herald

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