Jailed fraudster granted time out of prison
HAMISH MCNICOL AND DAVE BURGESS
Fraudster David Ross has already been out of prison twice, both before and after he was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months jail for running a fraudulent scheme in which investors lost about $115m.
Corrections confirmed yesterday that Ross had been "on occasion" granted "temporary removals" from prison.
A spokesman for Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said her office had been made aware that Ross had twice been taken out of prison to have medical issues dealt with, and was accompanied by officers at all times.
"Legally, Corrections has a duty of care to all prisoners, which they take very seriously."
It said it had no further information as to the dates of his removal, or for how long.
Lower North Island regional commissioner Paul Tomlinson today said Corrections had double-checked and confirmed Ross was accompanied twice by corrections officers when he visited medical professionals.
''This occurred on November 8 and December 4 last year.
''He has not, however, been to a beach during these occasions.''
Ross was remanded in custody in August last year when he pleaded guilty to five charges stemming from the $115 million fraud.
He was later sentenced November 15 last year.
The Dominion Post was told that Ross was recently seen unloading furniture from a truck into a friend's property at Riversdale Beach, near Masterton.
But today Corrections rejected the claims Ross had been released to go to a beach.
Yesterday Bruce Tichbon, head of a group of investors who lost more than $100 million in a fraud scheme run by Ross, said that people would feel betrayed by his leaving prison, even if medical reasons were not unreasonable grounds.
However, sightings in Riversdale - where Ross owned a $195,000 section, about to go on sale in about three weeks for the benefit of defrauded investors - gave him a "creepy feeling".
"There are hundreds of people out there who are going to spew when they hear this, considering the enormity of the damage he's done to people.
"This is an insult to the victims, a complete and utter insult."
Tichbon said he had heard from at least two other people who had said they had recently spotted Ross.
"I've got to pick myself up the floor. I got the same reports and I didn't even associate any credibility, " Tichbon said. "I'm struggling for words here. I'm fighting to control my emotions."
Ross, whose company Ross Asset Management fleeced at least 700 investors, was jailed in November for 10 years and 10 months for running a fraudulent scheme in which investors lost about $115m.
His sentence has a minimum non-parole period of five years and five months.
He is appealing against this next month as "manifestly excessive" or "inappropriate" .
A temporary removal from prison may be granted to assist reintegration or rehabilitation, on compassionate and childbirth grounds or for medical or other care purposes.
Corrections said it was not uncommon, and Ross was still in custody during the removals, which meant he was always accompanied by Corrections officers.
Security and privacy reasons, however, prevented Corrections from providing further details.
Labour's Corrections spokeswoman, Jacinda Ardern, said she believed any prison in which Ross would be held would have "very comprehensive" in-house medical services.
"[Releasing Ross] should only be for something quite significant - an operation, a procedure or some sort or significant treatment that warrants out-of-prison care - where you would assume he'd need to leave a Corrections facility.
"There is a public expectation that, if you've been given a sentence, then you serve it out."
Ross' lawyer, Gary Turkington, was unaware of the temporary removals and would not comment further.When RAM collapsed in late 2012, Ross was held in hospital for three weeks under the Mental Health Act.
At his sentencing last year, a letter that he had wanted to send his victims, but was not allowed to, was read to the court, in which he said: "I have been under medical treatment but thankfully I now have sufficient strength to carry on."
- Fairfax Media