Pokie fraud case verdict

By on June 15, 2017

Verdicts were handed down in the trial of three people charged with offences in relation to a multi-million dollar gaming machine fraud in the Wellington High Court today.

The defendants; Michael Joseph O’Brien (58) of Blenheim, Paul Anthony Max (60) of Nelson, and Kevin Coffey (57) of Hastings, faced Crimes Act charges of ‘Obtaining by deception’.

Michael O’Brien has been found guilty of five charges, Paul Max has been found guilty of three charges and Kevin Coffey has been found guilty of one charge and not guilty of one other.

The manipulation of gambling licenses and grants was detected during Operation Chestnut, a joint investigation involving the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (OFCANZ), and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The investigation was a significant case in New Zealand for the ‘Class 4’ gambling sector, which is made up of high-turnover gambling including gaming machines in pubs and clubs.

SFO Director, Julie Read said, “Funding from pokie machines provides millions of dollars of community funding for sport, health, education and other activities every year. Operation Chestnut has been effective in enabling the DIA to pinpoint areas where compliance can be lifted in the sector so that pokie machine benefits can continue without the risk of manipulation or potential criminal activity.”

The defendants were remanded in custody by Justice Dobson to next appear for sentencing on 13 July.

 

Issued by

Andrea Linton
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550

BACKGROUND TO INVESTIGATION

A Pokies 101 guide is available at this link: http://www.dia.govt.nz/Gambling it describes how the Class 4 gambling sector in New Zealand operates.

CRIMES ACT OFFENCES

Section 240 Obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception
(1) Every one is guilty of obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception who, by any deception and without claim of right,-
(a) obtains ownership or possession of, or control over, any property, or any privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration, directly or indirectly; or
(b) in incurring any debt or liability, obtains credit; or
(c) induces or causes any other person to deliver over, execute, make, accept, endorse, destroy, or alter any document or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage; or
(d) causes loss to any other person.

(1A) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who, without reasonable excuse, sells, transfers, or otherwise makes available any document or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage knowing that, by deception and without claim of right, the document or thing was, or was caused to be, delivered, executed, made, accepted, endorsed, or altered.

(2) In this section, deception means-
(a) a false representation, whether oral, documentary, or by conduct, where the person making the representation intends to deceive any other person and-
(i) knows that it is false in a material particular; or
(ii) is reckless as to whether it is false in a material particular; or
(b) an omission to disclose a material particular, with intent to deceive any person, in circumstances where there is a duty to disclose it; or
(c) a fraudulent device, trick, or stratagem used with intent to deceive any person.

About The Serious Fraud Office

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act.

The SFO is the lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious or complex financial crime, including bribery and corruption.

The presence of an agency dedicated to white collar crime is integral to New Zealand’s reputation for transparency, integrity, fair-mindedness and low levels of corruption.

This work contributes to a productive and prosperous New Zealand and the SFO’s collaborative efforts with international partners also reduce the serious harm that corrupt business practices do to the global economy.

The SFO has three operational teams; the Evaluation and Intelligence team along with two investigative teams.

The SFO operates under two sets of investigative powers.

Part 1 of the SFO Act provides that it may act where the Director “has reason to suspect that an investigation into the affairs of any person may disclose serious or complex fraud.”

Part 2 of the SFO Act provides the SFO with more extensive powers where: “…the Director has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence involving serious or complex fraud may have been committed…”

In considering whether a matter involves serious or complex fraud, the Director may, among other things, have regard to:

  • the suspected nature and consequences of the fraud and/or;
  • the suspected scale of the fraud and/or;
  • the legal, factual and evidential complexity of the matter and/or;
  • any relevant public interest considerations.

The SFO’s Annual Report 2016 sets out its achievements for the past year, while the Statement of Intent 2014-2018 sets out the SFO’s strategic goals and performance standards. Both are available online at www.sfo.govt.nz

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