Two men ended a Hawke's Bay couple's dream of a pre-retirement freeholding of their home when they stripped $80,000 from a bank account by accessing the ANZ's goMoney app on a stolen phone.
The couple's plight was revealed by Judge Tony Adeane on Friday in Napier District Court as he sentenced 38-year-old Bera William Ledua to two years and six months jail for theft and accessing a computer system for dishonest monetary gain.
The offences happened in August 2017 after Ledua stole the phone from what had been a locked drawer in a lifestyle-block home in which he was allowed to stay while employed as a farm worker, while the owner and his family were overseas.
Delaying the court process by more than a year by leaving his admissions until after a trial date was set and then avoiding probation reporting responsibilities for as much as nine months, Ledua had been in custody since his arrest after a warrant was issued when he failed to appear last December.
Judge Adeane said he also took into account the "magnitude and sophistication" of the theft, and Ledua's past history of offending, which included having $9000 of fines to pay, including $1400 in reparation to a previous victim.
A Crown summary said Ledua and a friend he enlisted for the four-day cyberspace heist made eight transfers of $10,000 each to accounts operated by others who were said to have been paid some of the funds for allowing their accounts to be used for the transfers and the near-immediate withdrawal of the money.
Police recovered about $15,000 from the co-offender, who is yet to be sentenced, and who also faces methamphetamine charges. But he had claimed the money had been lent to him by an aunt.
The summary said the offences had happened while the victim and his family were in the UK, having arranged for neighbours to look after their house and use it for farm worker accommodation if needed.
The victim had left belongings in a locked bedroom and a phone in a locked dining-room office-desk drawer.
Staying in the house, Ledua gained entry to the drawer, removed the phone, left, and did not return to work. He contacted a friend — said to be a gang member and drug-dealer — and said he had a "thing" that could make them some money, leading to a plan to steal the money with the use of the phone.
The Judge said the victim was devastated by the loss which had had a major effect on a mortgage, and was expected he would have to keep working instead of retiring with a freehold home.