In 2017, Sandra Rosolowski was climbing down the property ladder. The superannuitant, who had moved to New Zealand as a pregnant widow in 1978, found a sunny flat with views of Browns Bay she could see herself calling home.
She was concerned at the length of time it might take to sort the paperwork to sell her mortgage-free North Shore home and settle on this new one. The 75-year-old, who has long lived by herself, says she was introduced by the estate agent to some gentlemen who could facilitate the process and soon she was moving in.
Having made it home, she experienced difficulty in securing a copy of the sale and purchase agreement. Eventually, in frustration, she checked the property title and was shocked to find her name wasn't on it.
Further, the property she thought was bought with cash was saddled with a mortgage registered to BNZ that now sits at $1.1 million.
"I've never had a mortgage on a property," she said.
Rosolowski complained to the bank - who referred the matter to police, who later passed it to the Serious Fraud Office - and lawyered up, but has in the years since been stuck in legal limbo and now finds herself unable to cut the winter chill.
"Because I don't own the property I'm not allowed to alter anything with it, so I couldn't even get a heat pump," she said.
"It's been a convoluted nightmare."
Jayden Carter, a 20-something truck driver from Northland, got a call about this property a few years ago. He was registered as a founding director of SLR Holdings, the company that is today recorded as owning the property.
"I didn't know anything about that company until the cop rung me up and said 'What's this?'"
Carter's signature appears on director consent forms for SLR Holdings filed with the Companies Office, but he says he struggled to recall signing the document.
"We met up once. As I said to the cop, I can't remember signing anything, but I did meet with them and have a few beers."
"Them" allegedly refers to brothers Chris and Gerard Peters, a pair of businessmen who operate a cluster of companies such as Peters Property Holdings, the same pair who Rosolowski said offered to facilitate her paperwork.
In a series of legal letters from lawyers Lee Salmon Long over the past two months, brothers Gerard and Chris, and mother Serene - strenuously denied any wrongdoing. Through the lawyers, they declined to respond to detailed questions about specific transactions or make any on-record comments.
The Peters family insisted any SFO investigation was a private matter, and claimed unspecified inaccuracies in the Herald's description of property and investment transactions in the alleged scheme. The family also declined to explain where millions of dollars said to have been raised for offshore investments from numerous investors had ended up.
The pair of brothers appear for periods as directors or shareholders of SLR Holdings in a series of filings processed by their mother Serene Peters around and after the time Rosolowski moved in.
Carter is recorded as resigning from SLR Holdings in late 2017 - just before a series of mortgage registrations and ownership transfers.
Alongside Rosolowski, the other person left in the lurch from this hot potato of a property deal is Jatinder Bhachu. He was the other co-founding director and is now recorded as the sole owner of SLR Holdings - and is also now the person responsible for its million-dollar mortgage.
Bhachu alleges his actions over the property in question were at the direction of both Chris and Gerard: "They did everything. They came around and said 'sign here,'" he said.
Emails provided to the Herald appear to show Chris provided correspondence to Bhachu to be cut and pasted and sent to bank managers.
Bhachu now finds himself owning two properties saddled with huge mortgages, and believed he had been "naive" over alleged promises the arrangements would provide regular income and a substantial windfall with no money down.
"I believe I've been used. There's a police complaint now with the SFO. That's nothing more I can do," he said.
He said he only become aware the property he thought he was being helped to buy was occupied by Rosolowski - who in turn thought that she was the owner - more than a year after signing paperwork.
Rosolowski began complaining in earnest in 2018.
A letter from an Age Concern social worker who looked into her case that year - and who talked directly to Chris Peters who it was alleged did "not appear to be affiliated with a reputable financial organisation" - said the mortgage and sale proceeds were said to have "been put on deposit overseas at 20 per cent interest with Credit Suisse or the like".
Given Rosolowski's alleged denial at having signed documents to this effect, the risk of losing her house, and her apparent unawareness of this complex series of transactions, the Age Concern social worker recommended she look into the matter further, and complain to authorities.
The Herald understand complaints were first made to police about Peters Property Holdings in mid-2018 by BNZ - after concerns raised by Rosolowski - and the matter was referred to the SFO late last year as its complexity and scale rose.
The complaint concerns schemes whereby members of the public were induced to provide funds for Peters Property Holdings to invest offshore by maximising mortgage financing from their properties by inflating valuations via a complex flurry of related-party resales.
Documents seen by the Herald show the scheme promised investors annual dividend payments for equity invested and that properties involved would be returned to their original owners, mortgage-free, after a five-year period.
The complaint is understood to cover mortgage and investment deals on about six Auckland properties, and a number of other - wealthier - investors who tipped in cash. Over the past two years allegedly promised mortgage payments and investment dividends started being missed and the full scale of risks - and the fallout - became apparent.
The Herald is aware a family home in Northcote caught up in the alleged scheme was sold last year under mortgagee sale with no residue left for its original owners.
Detective Sergeant James Bolton was the officer in charge of the Peters investigation before the SFO referral and said while the Rosolowski case was complex - and the effect on her was "just horrible" - the file quickly mushroomed as he was made aware of other similar allegations in relation to similar property deals.
"It just grew from there as more people came forward. It's big money, then you've got independent money with Gerard Peters that's supposed to have taken to invest - somewhere in Singapore or wherever," he says.
Bolton said the number of people involved was considerable, and figures like Bhachu and Carter were allegedly encouraged to put their names forward with promises of easy money.
Bolton says: "You've got young guys coaxed into buying their first home - not paying with money. Their names are on the mortgages with bank - and a week later the properties have gone into a company's name with either Gerard or his companies as director or shareholder."
The case is now out of Bolton's hands.
A spokesman for the SFO, which typically only examines cases of alleged financial impropriety where the sums involved exceed $5 million, declined to provide details of the complaint, or when a decision would be made whether to formally open an investigation, but said: "The matter was referred to the SFO by police."
Remuera Lawyer Paul Phillips, acting for Rosolowski, said the pattern of transactions, mortgage registrations, and Companies Office filings related to the property was bewildering.
"It's a convoluted situation - but whatever it was, it didn't work for Sandra - it only worked for Peters."
Phillips said banks, who repeatedly refinanced the properties in question, and law enforcement, who first received complaints about the matter in 2018, had serious questions to answer.
"I can't say too much about which people are responsible - but it's a disgrace, in my opinion, that the Serious Fraud Office haven't picked it up yet," he said.
A spokesman for BNZ, the bank holding the mortgage on the Rosolowski property, would only say: "We are working with the relevant authorities to resolve this matter."
A spokesman for Westpac, involved in financing and refinancing a number of properties in the alleged scheme - including advancing a $1.6 million mortgage on a Grafton apartment in the name of Bhachu that has a rateable valuation of only $850,000 - cited the ongoing investigation in declining to provide a detailed response, but said: "We have concerns about the conduct of a number of parties involved in this transaction and the representations that were provided to us."
Gerard Peters has variously described himself as a car importer, property developer and "quantitative strategist". In 2015 he made international headlines after his $400,000 Lamborghini was towed after misusing a disabled parking spot at LynnMall. He paid a $400 fine to reclaim his vehicle.
He lost the vehicle - and five other luxury cars including a Ferrari, a Rolls-Royce and a Porsche - late last year when receivers were appointed to a number of his companies by a creditor unrelated to the alleged investment scheme.
Gerard Peters has told many parties - including creditors allegedly chasing him for unpaid debts, and the Herald through his lawyers - he is overseas and unable to be contacted. His LinkedIn profile says he is in Malaysia. In his absence, his New Zealand business presence - and that of his wider family - is under pressure.
Along with the referral of the police investigation to the Serious Fraud Office, a large residential property owned by Gerard Peters in Waiwera, carrying two mortgages and described in advertisements as a "peace of paradise", is listed for mortgagee tender with bids closing on March 30.
Another property in Stillwater, owned by Peters Family Limited, was advertised as a "Tuscan-style home" whose "vendors must sell" at auction on March 25.
Rosolowski - who has had to place a caveat across her own home to forestall recovery action by banks - said the affair should not be swept under the carpet and those responsible should be held to account: "This should be blown open, and revealed so everyone can see it."