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A respected businessman allegedly pilfered about $1.3 million from an Auckland rest home and spent the money on his and his wife’s upmarket lifestyle and building their dream home, a court has heard.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is alleged to have used close to 1100 cheques over seven years to fraudulently siphon cash from the aged-care business.

About $100,000 allegedly went to dozens of third-party entities, many of which were apparently contracted to do work on the couple’s sprawling lifestyle property on the city’s rural fringe.

He is also accused of cashing rest home cheques totalling more than $430,000 for the couple’s own use, or, along with his wife, signing off cheques made out to himself from the rest home worth nearly $670,0000.

The man is also accused of overpaying himself and his wife by more than $265,000 in salary and falsifying accounting records in a bid to cover his tracks.

It is understood much of expenditure is not contested, and the man will argue it was for legitimate purposes or he was entitled to the money.

The man, who worked at the rest home and along with his wife was responsible for the facility’s day-to-day operations, faces 49 dishonesty charges – many of them representative – relating to the alleged offending.

They include using a document without claim or right to gain a pecuniary advantage, theft by a person in a special relationship and false accounting.

The man went on trial today before Justice Timothy Brewer in the High Court at Auckland and pleaded not guilty to the alleged crimes.

If convicted he could be sent to jail.

Crown prosecutor Sam McMullan told the jury the man had effectively used the rest home accounts as his own and taken money he wasn’t entitled to.

“Cheques were made out to third parties. These were third parties to which [the man] owed money but he used [rest home] cheques to pay his bills.

“[The man] created a system where he could hide his fraud, the way in which he was taking money from [the rest home], by recording it inaccurately.”

The court heard the alleged offending began in 2005 but ramped up in later years as the couple’s new build got underway.

“We’ve got this money being taken at the time he needs it most.

“The amounts increase as needs for cash flow to [the man and his wife] also increase.”

Forensic investigations of the rest home’s financial records carried out after the “flag went up” in March 2012 revealed unusual salary payments to the couple well over their normal entitlement around the time they needed to pay a $46,500 land purchase deposit in 2009.

Over the next few years the man allegedly wrote numerous cheques for builders, plumbers, window framers and various other contractors for work on the couple’s “sizeable” new home.

These payments were invoiced to the rest home company.

 Justice Timothy Brewer is presiding over the case in the High Court at Auckland. Photo / NZME
Justice Timothy Brewer is presiding over the case in the High Court at Auckland. Photo / NZME

McMullan described the man’s accounting and record keeping as “shambolic”, which had made it difficult for investigators to trace whether much of the money went on the couple’s personal spending or legitimate rest-home expenses.

“The reason why the accounting system was created in this way was to conceal exactly what went on.”

The court also heard the man tried to “conceal” his offending by deliberately changing the names on financial records of the payee companies that worked on his house to parties that provided legitimate services to the rest home.

The man’s lawyer, Fletcher Pilditch QC, told the jury his client was innocent until proven guilty.

The onus was on the Crown to prove the alleged offences and prove that the man had “criminal intent”.

Pilditch said it was not a crime to get behind on bills or have “shambolic” record keeping.

“Your’e not concerned about that. What you’re concerned about is whether he is guilty of a crime.”

Much of the events had occurred more than a decade ago and people’s recollection could change with the passage of time.

To convict his client, the jury would have to be certain he was guilty.

“Was he entitled to the benefit of the cheques and salary? You’re going to have to be sure he was not entitled and that he was acting dishonesty.

“He does not have to prove he did not steal. The Crown has to prove that he did.”

The trial is set down for at least two weeks and resumes tomorrow.

Post source: Nzherald

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