An Auckland architectural draughtsman has avoided prison and been ordered to pay back his six fraud victims, who were left out of pocket through misleading building plans.
Guang-You Feng, who already lost his Licensed Building Practitioner's (LBP) design licence for forgery, was sentenced today after pleading guilty to dishonestly using documents for a pecuniary advantage.
The North Shore District Court heard he defrauded six property owners out of more than $76,700 during his offending last year.
Court documents show Feng misrepresented an Auckland Council building inspection documents, a council tax invoice, council building consent forms, a plumbing inspection check sheet, and building plans for properties in Hobsonville, Mt Albert and Red Beach.
The victims lost money through council fees, unfinished building work, new engineering and structural plans and unusable materials which had been left outside for a year, the court heard.
But, in an effort to make amends, the 41-year-old has already paid back about $14,000, his lawyer said.
He also offered to pay each of the victims $100 per week, which would see what was still owed returned after a little more than two years.
Judge Anne-Marie Bouchier, who had earlier given Feng a sentence indication of 30 months' imprisonment, said he could avoid jail if other factors, such as genuine remorse, were apparent.
"That's what we are deciding today, whether this can be brought down to an electronic sentence and home detention," she said.
Feng's lawyer said her client could work from home if sentenced to home detention, allowing him to pay back his victims quicker.
"He does have empathy and that's expressed in the restorative justice conference," she said.
Police, however, argued if Feng was allowed to work from home then his sentence would be more aligned with a period of community detention, which did not adequately reflect his culpability.
"One of the key factors, one would have thought, is to try and keep the income stream going to pay the victims back," Judge Bouchier replied.
She said she wanted to ensure the victims were repaid.
"I am of the view that the court can take that into account when considering whether a further discount should be given," Judge Bouchier said.
"I'm going to seize upon the option which appears to be the most realistic."
The judge reduce the imprisonment sentence to 12 months' home detention and also ordered Feng to pay back his victims at $1200 per fortnight.
The court heard Feng's employer was already aware about his previous forgery and his most recent offending, but Feng's lawyer said there were concerns publicity may see him lose the job.
In 2018, Feng had his LBP licence cancelled by the Building Practitioners Board.
It had launched an inquiry in late 2017 after becoming aware and became aware he'd been convicted of forgery.
Feng had forged a producer statement which consumers and councils rely on to provide assurance that building designs meet building code compliance. Producer statements also relate to professional indemnity insurance cover.
The statement was signed by an engineer and fraudulently altered by Feng to produce copies for other building consent applications.
Sentencing notes showed the offending occurred over three years.