By SCOTT MacLEOD
An Auckland consultant whose businesses turned over hundreds of thousands of dollars has been exposed as one of the biggest ACC fraudsters.
Alan Gordon Thomas, now aged 45, told ACC in 1989 that he had a sore arm and could no longer work.
He grossed $238,000 in accident compensation during the next seven years while also earning from an immigration consultancy, publishing a Chinese newspaper and teaching English to immigrants.
Thomas wrote newspaper articles titled "How to Become a Millionaire" and "The Money Machine" while receiving compensation, and was photographed introducing former Finance Minister Sir William Birch at a seminar, the Auckland District Court heard.
The dapper Howick man carried his briefcase to the dock yesterday to be sentenced on 22 counts of document fraud. But the sentencing was put off until February 10 when his lawyer, James LaHatte, said he wanted nothing more to do with the case.
"Mr Thomas indicated that his girlfriend was about to bring proceedings against me," said Mr LaHatte.
A new lawyer, Rob Weir, took over at short notice.
Robert Liberona, who manages the Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance Corporation's fraud unit, told the Herald that Thomas ranked in the top five for claimant fraud. He was certified as being fully unfit for work and was paid weekly compensation from 1990 to 1996.
Mr Liberona said Thomas was caught during a routine audit, and a new electronic system was being used that would help to catch similar fraudsters more quickly.
The corporation alleged Thomas told its Takapuna office in September 1990 that he had strained his right arm while sailing during a storm in Queen Charlotte Sound.
His weekly income of $730.77 meant he was entitled to $584.62 a week in compensation.
From 1990 to August 1997 he gave the corporation 25 medical certificates stating that he was unfit for work, usually for periods of one to three months at a time. But a probe into Thomas' affairs found he was linked to 18 businesses, including the Orac group of companies.
Documents and computer disks seized from a Howick address on April 8, 1998, included details on bank accounts. These showed deposits of $1,286,000 and withdrawals of $1,276,283 from 1991 to 1998.
Thomas told the court he could afford to invest because he lived "in a single room, sharing costs at a very low level and not having lavish entertainment."
The defence argued that the real issue was whether Thomas had fraudulent intent when he used the documents.
Thomas was unable to get a straight answer out of the corporation as to what he should do to rehabilitate himself. His business ventures were rehabilitation efforts rather than work.
Thomas was remanded on bail and faces up to seven years in jail.