Crown gets back conman’s mil­lions

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - MARTY SHARPE

The Gov­ern­ment has banked $4 mil­lion worth of Ap­ple shares af­ter the ill-got­ten gains of ben­e­fit fraudster Wayne Pat­ter­son were fi­nally prised from an Aus­trian bank af­ter al­most a decade of try­ing.

Fifty-eight year-old Pat­ter­son was last year re­leased from an eight-year, nine-month prison lag af­ter plead­ing guilty in 2007 to steal­ing $3.4 mil­lion in mul­ti­ple in­stances of ben­e­fit fraud.

He faked 123 iden­ti­ties to claim up to $23,000 a week for three years be­fore his ar­rest in 2006.

Thanks to Pat­ter­son’s canny in­vest­ments, the Crown was able to re­cover more than the full amount he had stolen, in­clud­ing $1m in cash and shares that he had de­posited in Swiss bank ac­counts.

But some $215,000 in cash and $810,000 in Ap­ple shares he had placed in Aus­trian banks proved trick­ier to repa­tri­ate.

De­spite New Zealand’s courts grant­ing the So­lic­i­tor-Gen­eral a con­fis­ca­tion or­der for the funds, the Aus­trian le­gal sys­tem al­lowed Pat­ter­son to en­gage a gov­ern­ment­funded lawyer to fight the Crown’s ap­pli­ca­tion to re­cover that money.

Pat­ter­son ac­cused the Gov­ern­ment of ‘‘le­galised theft’’, claim­ing that the amount stolen had al­ready been re­cov­ered.

Af­ter a 10-year bat­tle that tra­versed var­i­ous tiers of the Aus­trian court sys­tem, the Crown was the vic­tor.

Last Novem­ber, it re­ceived the tech­nol­ogy gi­ant’s shares, which had sky-rock­eted in value to $4,035,301.80, as well as the $136,000 de­posited in cash. That money was trans­ferred to the Gov­ern­ment’s con­sol­i­dated fund.

The cost of repa­tri­at­ing these funds, in­clud­ing le­gal ex­penses over the years, had been $690,000, a Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment (MBIE) spokesman said.

Pat­ter­son was re­leased from prison on July 25 last year and now lives with his par­ents near Carter­ton, in Wairarapa. He could not be reached for com­ment.

A Min­istry of So­cial Devel­op­ment spokes­woman said Pat­ter­son’s case was ‘‘ex­tra­or­di­nary’’ and the min­istry thanked MBIE for repa­tri­at­ing the funds.

Pat­ter­son was caught in late 2006 af­ter Ki­wibank no­ticed sev­eral of its bank ac­counts were be­ing ac­cessed from just two in­ter­net ad­dresses.

Po­lice raided his rented Auck­land home and found gold bars worth nearly $1m and $865,000 cash hid­den around the house and gar­den.

From 2003 to 2006, he used 123 fake iden­ti­ties to steal $3.4m in ben­e­fit pay­ments. He was claim­ing $23,000 a fort­night at his peak.

Pat­ter­son pleaded guilty to 10 charges of false iden­tity and fraud. He was sent to jail for eight years and nine months in Oc­to­ber 2007, hav­ing been or­dered to serve a min­i­mum of five years.

Pat­ter­son had pre­vi­ously served four years’ jail for fraud in Aus­tralia and an­other four years of prison in the United States.

It was his fourth prison term for se­ri­ous dis­hon­esty since 2003. He had a crim­i­nal record stretch­ing back to 1978 for bur­glary, forgery, theft, pos­ses­sion of a pis­tol, and es­cap­ing cus­tody.

In 2015, he pleaded guilty to fak­ing let­ters from Carter­ton Dis­trict Coun­cil in a bid to win pa­role.

One of the let­ters was on coun­cil let­ter­head, and sup­pos­edly of­fered Pat­ter­son a job in­ter­view if he was freed from jail. It was signed by Paul Reynolds, of the coun­cil’s hor­ti­cul­ture de­part­ment, but it turned out the coun­cil had no em­ployee by that name.

Pat­ter­son was re­peat­edly de­nied pa­role be­fore be­ing re­leased last year to live with his par­ents. He re­cently lost an ap­peal over a court ban on in­ter­net ac­cess that ap­plies un­til July this year.

Wayne Pat­ter­son

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