Masterton fraudster seeks suppression

By Staff Reporter editorial@age.co.nz -
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A Masterton man, 38, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to using a document, an insurance claim form, to defraud. PHOTO/FILE
A Masterton man, 38, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to using a document, an insurance claim form, to defraud. PHOTO/FILE

A Masterton man is fighting to keep his name private after a conviction in Masterton District Court for insurance fraud.

The 38-year-old man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to using a document, an insurance claim form, to defraud.

Through his lawyer, Virginia Pearson, the man applied for permanent name suppression and for a discharge without conviction.

Judge Barbara Morris denied both applications, but yesterday Ms Pearson filed a notice of appeal and the court re-imposed interim name suppression until the appeal.

In October 2015 the man had given the keys of his vehicle, worth $12,000, to an associate then reported his car stolen.

The following day he had made a claim with his insurance company.

Police became suspicious of the claim and confronted the man, who admitted the fraud.

Judge Morris acknowledged the man had felt pressure from the associate to follow through with the fraud, after its conception and said the action was "completely out of character for you".

Ms Pearson said the man had been under financial pressure and had "made an offhand comment which was taken seriously".

"Once the ball started rolling he felt pressure to continue."

Ms Pearson said that her client was "not sure what he [the associate] might do" if he didn't follow through with the plan.

The fraud would have enabled the man to rid himself of payments of $70 a week on his car.

The judge acknowledged that the man's name suppression "was not sought to protect you, but your employer".

The letter said the accused had been "employed because of (his) good reputation or standing", and the employer was concerned a conviction and publication of name might lead to a rethink by customers through guilt by association.

A probation report said the man was "extremely remorseful, shocked and embarrassed" and at low risk of reoffending.

Ms Pearson said the man had lost his job, but his employer was allowing him to keep working until he found new employment.

A potential employer also wrote to the court, saying they would not employ him unless he received a discharge without conviction and permanent name suppression.

The judge said she would convict the man and allow publication of his name, but no further penalty, except for a sentence to come up if called upon within 12 months.

"I ask -- and I am sure they will -- that the press deal with this in a balanced and proportionate way," Judge Morris said.

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