A director of failed firm Rockforte Finance has been sentenced to four years in jail while another got 11 months' home detention and 200 hours' community work

Following a 13-month investigation into the Gisborne-based finance company, the Serious Fraud Office last year laid charges against Nigel Brent O'Leary and two other Rockforte directors, Colin Mark Simpson and John Patrick Gardner.

O'Leary admitted to nine charges earlier this month including theft by person in special relationship, obtaining by deception, false statement by promoter and false accounting.

He was sentenced to four years in prison in the Gisborne High Court today.


Gardner admitted five charges and was sentenced today to 11 months' home detention and 200 hours of community work.

Simpson, who pleaded guilty to nine charges, was handed the same sentence last month of 11 months' home detention and 200 hours' community work.

The SFO said a significant portion of Rockforte investors' money was used as a source of funding for the directors' personal business interests in two companies - Gisborne Haulage and Michael Ward 1969, which operated the Jean Jones clothing label throughout New Zealand.

The SFO charges mainly related to this lending and the manner in which it was reported in Rockforte's accounts.

According to the SFO, false reporting led to Rockforte's acceptance in the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme, which reimbursed 77 mum-and-dad investors $3.8 million when the company collapsed in 2010.

While the losses were covered by the guarantee scheme, new SFO director Julie Read said today that "the fraudulent activities of Mr O'Leary and his co-directors led to the consequential failure of several businesses."

"This has had a significant impact on the Gisborne community and resulted in the loss of financial investments and jobs. We hope that this decision has brought some form of closure to people who were affected by the failure of Rockforte," she said today.