He told his would-be victim he was off to the Caribbean.

But there were no cocktails or bikini-clad women where Michael Richard Smith was heading - to trial in the Hamilton District Court.

Smith is the man with many last names. He's also known as Michael Weaver, Levertoff and Fresnell.

He changed his name to Smith in January, three months before he would begin his fight - which he would subsequently lose - against fraud charges.

Advertisement

He pretended to be the go-to man for property dealings and advice, even at one stage offering expert accountancy tips despite not having any qualifications.

Smith, 41, has had name suppression for the last couple of years so the Herald hasn't been able to write about him.

After a trial in the Hamilton District Court in April this year, Judge Robert Spear found Smith guilty of 21 of 26 charges of theft by a person in a special relationship, describing his offending as "cynical", "deceitful" and "intentional".

On Friday he appeared for sentencing, when Judge Spear jailed him for five years for his fraud totalling about $700,000.

It was at his sentencing, that Smith also admitted further charges - one of breaching the Companies Act by fraud and two charges of dishonestly using a document after clocking up $20,000 worth of advertising before his trial was about to start.

Other charges he admitted related to tax returns, the profits of which he diverted to his own pocket.

After changing his name, and while on bail awaiting trial, Smith set up two new companies, AAA Brands Ltd and AAA Services Group, operating out of Whangaparaoa.

One of the businesses it began was Elder Consulting - offering retirement planning for the 60 plus - and on March 13 clocked up $20,847.42 worth of advertising with NZME, publisher of the Herald.

Advertisement

However, the company soon put a stop to the advertising after being tipped off about his identity.

On April 17, just a week before his trial, he attempted to place more advertising with the company's Hamilton paper, Hamilton News, before saying he wouldn't be contactable as he was going on a "three-week holiday to the Caribbean" - when in fact, it was a trial in the Hamilton District Court.

On April 20, he contacted the Auckland office and asked that his advertising be put on hold as he had more clients than he could service.

He also clocked up $4,627.27 on a Z fuel card, using it 193 times between March 7, 2015 and April 21, 2015 - the day before his trial kicked off.

He will be sentenced on those charges in September.

The charges for which Smith received his jail sentence, involved him coaxing people into property investment and development under his guidance and getting them to pay him in advance for renovations and subdivisions.

Advertisement

He held property seminars, in which he also claimed to be an expert accountant, in the upper North Island including Rotorua and Auckland.

However, Judge Spear ruled that Smith had "no appropriate qualification in either accountancy or property development/management and very limited experience in business matters".

Smith studied at university but it was unclear if he graduated, and also worked on a dairy farm in Rotorua and as a short time as an insurance agent then mortgage broker.

He was living in Te Awamutu when he was arrested by police.

It was revealed in the trial that Smith instead spent the money on hotels, clothes, vehicles, basically "anything but" the developments, Judge Spear said in his reserved decision.

However, Smith's lawyer Dave Allan claimed he was simply a businessman who got out of his depth in respect of property consultancy work and at no stage was there any legal requirement on him to apply funds provided to him by the victims as they required.

Advertisement

The offending spanned 2003 and 2004 and involved five groups of people.

The first was a Canadian woman, who was a permanent resident in New Zealand under the wealthy immigrant scheme, who was looking to make some secure investments.

She ended up losing $91,000 after botched property deals in Mamuku where he entered in property purchase agreements before telling her about it.

An Auckland couple lost just over $135,000 after attending a seminar and entering into an agreement with his company 'Blue Door Professional Property Accountants'.

Changing your name

New Zealand's laws mean a person who is facing criminal charges can still change their name by deed poll.

The Department of Internal Affairs confirmed to the Herald that there was nothing preventing people from changing their name and all they needed was proof of their birth in New Zealand and that they're a New Zealand citizen - or entitled, under the Immigration Act 2009, to be in the country indefinitely.

Advertisement

Criminals taking advantage of the system were in the spotlight last year when convicted murderer Philip John Smith exploited holes in the system and was able to flee the country on a passport under his birth surname, sparking a ministerial inquiry.

The Herald posed questions to the department in response to the actions of Michael Richard Smith, who changed his name three months before his trial began, before carrying out further offending.

A department spokesman said a recent change was adding a step to be sure the person was changing their own name, and not anybody else's.

He said they did focus on the person's identity when issuing passports, but they might not be aware of any aliases that a person could be using.

"There is no limit on the number of times a person can formally change their name. If someone changes their name multiple times by Statutory Declaration each name change is recorded on their birth record if their birth is registered in New Zealand."

However, changes were implemented in 2009 affecting those not born in New Zealand, were added to a name change database.

Advertisement

The department relied on notification from the courts if an accused was bailed and their passport seized, yet they applied for a new passport under a different name.

"Should a person apply for a new passport in a new name, this is then linked back to their anchor identity."

For a person to change their name by deed poll they would register it with Births, Deaths and Marriages by making a statutory declaration, and supplying photo identification.