A woman accused of defrauding her former employer and client of more than $1 million during a seven-year span has had her bank accounts and property frozen.
The freezing order was sought by Smith Mitchell Ltd, a Te Kuiti-based rural accountancy firm that emerged from a restructuring of Lionel Smith & Associates, according to a recent High Court judgment.
Sharon Bradley, who was working for accountancy firm Lionel Smith & Associates at the time, was responsible for paying the day-to-day invoices received by clients – including one identified in the judgment as client A – from any third-party supplier.
Bradley, who had access to client A's Rabobank account, would load invoices into the Rabobank internet banking system for payment.
But according to the judgment, payments were allegedly made from client A's Rabobank account into a Kiwibank account in the name of Sharon Margaret Bradley between April 27, 2012 and March 8, 2018, totaling $980,309.53.
Bradley resigned from the company on March 29, 2018 to establish her own business – a quilting/craft workshop business trading as Waitomo Sewworms.
No payments into the account of Sharon Margaret Bradley were identified following Bradley's departure from Smith Mitchell.
It's alleged that Bradley, after receiving invoices from client A for payment, would set up a legitimate payment to the supplier, then reload the same invoice into the system as a future payment, with the payee details the same on the face of the payment but having changed the bank account for the supplier to the Kiwibank account in her name.
Smith Mitchell claimed that the only logical conclusion is that between 2012 and 2018, Bradley committed fraud against Smith Mitchell and client A.
Smith Mitchell said even if Bradley was not the person making the apparent fraudulent payments (which is said to be unlikely since she made 90 per cent of all payments for client A) she was complicit in the offence by not alerting anybody to the unexplained sums being paid into her account.
According to Smith Mitchell's claims, a further $53,417.50 was inadvertently paid by Smith Mitchell into Bradley's Kiwibank account on July 4, 2019 - a sum that has not been returned by Bradley.
Another $186,494.03 is being investigated as the bank account into which these payments were made has not been identified.
"The investigations also suggest that some payments made into Mrs Bradley's Kiwibank account were not a duplicate payment of a legitimate invoice initially paid to the supplier," the judge said.
"In relation to these payments, further investigation is required but it seems that these payments were made against a fictitious invoice or possibly without any invoice existing."
The judge considered there was an arguable case against Bradley and made freezing orders over bank accounts held in her name, a trust and accounts held in the name of various companies. The freezing order also included Bradley's interest in a Pirongia property.