Crown gets back conman’s millions
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.