Victims of Kapiti loan scammer Kerry Buddle burst into applause in court as a judge sentenced her to jail for more than four years.
Judge Peter Hobbs told the Wellington District Court that Buddle, 34, who had pleaded guilty to a raft of fraud charges, had left a "trail of destruction, both financial and emotional" for her victims.
Those who were present for the sentencing called out "thank you" to the judge as they left the court.
Jenny Twist, who said former mortgage broker Buddle owed her about $31,000, cried tears of relief as the jail sentence of four years and three months was handed down.
"I am over the moon she has been put away. Finally justice has been done," Twist said. "I am relieved she has gone to jail and am sure my husband lying in a hospital bed will be as well. I just can't believe nearly four years of hell is over."
Buddle, the former owner of Get Smart Mortgages and Insurance, persuaded clients who had borrowed money to lend some of it to her. She deceived her victims into giving her a total of more than $840,000.
Buddle is bankrupt, and there is no prospect of any of the money being repaid.
The judge said it was her trademark to manipulate financially naive and vulnerable clients. Some had to face mortgagee sales, had to restructure their finances or sell homes once the offending became known. Others lost their retirement savings.
He said the victim impact statements made distressing reading. The victims faced financial ruin, became angry and despairing, and were ashamed and embarrassed to have trusted Buddle. "No one can tell me where the money has gone," he said.
Twist said Buddle told her she needed to borrow money to help a couple from Britain put a deposit on a house, as they could not access their money for six months.
When Twist first met Buddle, her impression was of a good businesswoman. "She had all the designer label clothing, expensive jewellery, peroxided hair, her fingernails were always gorgeous . . . she had all the right stuff . . . but it was coming out of our pockets."
Buddle befriended her and husband Brian, grooming them to borrow money. "I did not want to sign the papers, but Brian was determined . . . she worked on him that much."
They received only two of the $100 monthly payments Buddle promised, ended up losing their animal shelter business and were threatened with losing their home.
"We continue to suffer," Twist said. "We have been destitute, due to a hefty mortgage . . . finding it really tough. She has stolen from our children . . . taken their inheritance."
Buddle, who entered the dock with her head bent and dabbing at her eyes, pleaded guilty to 22 charges of obtaining by deception, four of accessing a computer dishonestly and one of dishonestly using a document of over $800,000.
The judge also had before him three charges of benefit fraud amounting to $35,429.26.
He pointed out that she did not seem to understand the magnitude of what she had done, showing little empathy for her victims' plight, and having a sense of entitlement.
"I hope it's perhaps now dawning on you. I can only hope that is the case, or there is little prospect without it of rehabilitation."
'SHE WRECKED MY LIFE'
Ian Patterson, 65, took out a $77,000 mortgage on his Paekakariki house with Kerry Buddle, and then agreed to lend most of it to her.
She altered documents and ended up taking about $100,000 from him.
He has managed to keep his house only because his brother-in-law bought it for him.
He says he thought Buddle was "all right" at first, "but got over-zealous with money. She pretty much wrecked my life".
Living on superannuation, he was forced to do a paper run to survive.
He welcomed yesterday's jail sentence. "I wanted to see her sent down for quite a while after what she has done to people.
"She should really pay for what she did. I would like to get some money out of her but I know that would be hard."
HOW SHE DID IT
Kerry Buddle initially brokered legitimate loans and mortgages for clients as part of her Get Smart Mortgages and Insurance, a franchise of Kiwi Mortgage Market.
But then she borrowed money against the equity in their properties, getting them to sign documents, often using lenders who were not mainstream banks. She manipulated loan documents, getting clients to sign them before borrowing against them. The money went into accounts she controlled. Buddle got some victims to agree to further sums being lent to her.
She filled in loan forms to her advantage, and diverted the drawdown of money into her own accounts. She used the names of some client victims repeatedly.
She did not give clients the documents, or make them aware of the repayment schedules, the total debt they owed, or how many times she got loans in their names.
Victims became aware of her frauds only when default notices were served.
- The Dominion Post