Press Release – Serious Fraud Office
Terran Elizabeth Dow (47) was sentenced today in the Wellington District Court to 12 months’ supervision and 220 hours of community work for the role she played in assisting a pro-forma invoice advertising scam.
Ms Dow was sentenced as a party to five charges of dishonestly using a document under the Crimes Act.
Four other defendants Anthony John Hendon, Noelene Kay Banton, James Stephen Burns, and Johannes Hendrik Maria Middeldorp have been committed for trial and are still to be dealt with by the Court.
The invoicing scam, in which Ms Dow played a minor role, was the focus of a major joint enforcement agency operation known as Operation Edit led by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in conjunction with the New Zealand Police, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (OFCANZ), the Commerce Commission, New Zealand Customs, and Inland Revenue.
It has been alleged that the overall scheme involved approximately 2,700 pro-forma invoices being sent to approximately 1,600 victims seeking payments totalling no less than $1.4 million. This is alleged to have occurred between October 2009 and October 2012.
Acting SFO Chief Executive, Simon McArley said, “This operation resulted in a significant impact on the volume of this type of offending being reported. By working together as coordinated agencies we have not only brought those involved before the Court, but also achieved a significant improvement in regulatory outcomes.”
Background to investigation
A multi-agency taskforce combining Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the New Zealand Police, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (OFCANZ), the Commerce Commission, the New Zealand Customs Service, and Inland Revenue was created in May 2012 to combat an allegedly established pro-forma invoicing scam.
The allegations were that a number of individuals were selling advertising in magazines that were either never printed, or the number of magazines that were printed and circulated was grossly exaggerated. The magazines were generally titled in a way that suggested worthwhile causes in subjects such as road safety, parenting or drug addiction.
Operation Edit is the first joint investigation of its kind and started following initial coverage by TV3’s ‘Campbell Live’.
Crimes Act Offences
Section 228 Dishonestly taking or using document
Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who, with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration,—
(a) dishonestly and without claim of right, takes or obtains any document; or
(b) dishonestly and without claim of right, uses or attempts to use any document.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act in response to the collapse of financial markets in New Zealand at that time.
SFO’s role is the detection, investigation and prosecution of serious or complex financial crime. SFO’s focus is on investigating and prosecuting criminal cases that will have a real effect on:
• business and investor confidence in our financial markets and economy
• public confidence in our justice system and public service
• New Zealand’s international business reputation.
SFO operates three investigative teams:
• Evaluation and Intelligence;
• Financial Markets and Corporate Fraud; and
• Fraud and Corruption.
SFO operates under two sets of investigative powers.
Part I 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 II 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…”
SFO’s Annual Report 2012 sets out its achievements for the past year, while the Statement of Intent 2013-2016 sets out the SFO’s three year strategic goals and performance standards. Both are available online at: www.sfo.govt.nz