Fraudster's spectacular meltdown revealed

By Jimmy Ellingham

Paul Holmes pictured at home in Poukawa, near Hastings. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Paul Holmes pictured at home in Poukawa, near Hastings. Photo / Glenn Taylor

The man who once stole more than $1 million from an Auckland high school, went on the run and called broadcaster Paul Holmes live on air threatening to kill himself, is disputing aspects of his latest fraud.

In August 1996 John Grant Fagan, 54, suffered a spectacular meltdown after it was discovered he took $1.2 million from Northcote College, where he was employed as finance manager.

He fired a gun at school before fleeing in a stolen car, triggering a huge manhunt.

The following day Fagan called Paul Holmes on talkback radio, threatening to kill himself. The pair chatted on air for 15 minutes and arranged to meet at Auckland Airport.

Just as Holmes arrived, Fagan gave himself up to police, who were critical of Mr Holmes' actions.

But Mr Holmes was unrepentant, telling the Herald he had been in the "people business" for 25 years. "I think in his own strange, desperate way he was trying to say sorry and to make his position absolutely clear that he did not want to kill or hurt anyway, except himself, and that's why he phoned us."

Fagan was jailed for five years, a sentence that can now be revealed following the lifting of suppression orders today in the Palmerston North District Court.

Fagan appeared there for a disputed facts hearing over 15 charges of making a false statement by a promoter, forgery, and using forged documents he admitted to last year.

The charges, laid by the Serious Fraud Office, arose out of his attempts to attract investment to technology and property companies in 2009 and 2010.

The Serious Fraud Office said: "Mr Fagan's actions relate to existing investments of approximately $1.3 million, investments obtained of approximately $750,000 and attempts to obtain investments of approximately $4.5 million from various individuals and entities."

Among the false or forged documents that he used to overstate the success of the ventures were emails from Telecom senior managers Teresa Guthrie and Robin Meaclem.

These emails related to a company called Remote Management Systems that produced units capable of speeding up broadband internet.

The court heard today that the technology was good, but the company fell into receivership.

Fagan is disputing aspects of the charges against him, and a hearing before Judge Les Atkins is underway to sort that out before sentencing.

Among the witnesses giving evidence today was Gregory Doolan, via audio-visual link from Texas. He said Fagan flew to him in South Africa to try to solicit investment and sell rugby packages to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Everything sounded good at first, until doubts crept in, Mr Doolan said.

"He told me he had played rugby twice against the All Blacks once for Western Australia and once for British Colombia. I started to think was this really feasible?"

Fagan then admitted showing him false documents, Mr Doolan said.

The disputed facts hearing was adjourned until a date that is yet to be set. Fagan is on bail.

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