Mortgage broker jailed for fraud

GUILTY PLEA: Former Kapiti mortgage broker Kerry Buddle has admitted 27 charges of fraud.
GUILTY PLEA: Former Kapiti mortgage broker Kerry Buddle has admitted 27 charges of fraud.

Victims of Kapiti fraudster Kerry Buddle have burst into applause for the judge who jailed her for four years and three months as she was led from court.

Wellington District Court judge Peter Hobbs said Buddle had left a "trail of destruction both financial and emotional" for her victims

Victims called out thank you to Judge Hobbs as they left the court.

Buddle had 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 worth over $35,000.

The former owner of Get Smart Mortgages and Insurance operating under the umbrella of Kiwi Mortgage Market had initially pleaded not guilty and was close to trial before she changed her plea.

She persuaded clients who had borrowed money to lend some to her. The amount she deceived the victims of was more than $800,000.

She was a mortgage broker and self employed under the umbrella of a national franchise.

Buddle is bankrupt and there is no prospect of any of the money being repaid.

Judge Peter Hobbs said she manipulated financially naive and vulnerable clients.

He said her trademark was to target those clients arranging loans in their names without their knowledge, manipulated loan documents with money going into her own accounts.

The judge said the victims were not aware of the total debt owing and some had to face mortgagee sales, had to restructure their finances or had to sell homes once the offending was known.

He said the victims had lost varying amounts with the four biggest losing six figure sums.

The judge said victims faced financial ruin, become angry and despairing and was ashamed and embarrassed to have trusted her.

"No one can tell me where the money has gone," he said.

Judge Hobbs said the defence had told him some had gone into her business, along with legal costs over a restraint of trade problem and some had gone to her own personal use.

The judge also pointed out Buddle did not seem to understand the magnitude of what she had done, showing little empathy for their plight and having a sense of entitlement.

"I hope its perhaps now dawning on you. I can only hope that is the case or there is little prospect without it of rehabilitation."

He said a probation report marked her as having a high risk of reoffending.

Judge Hobbs also outlined how she had applied for a benefit in 2011 claiming she was a solo mother and had separated from her partner. However investigations showed she was not separated and had no dependent children.

He called her offending sophisticated, premeditated and significant with a trail of destruction both financial and emotional.

Defence lawyer Marty Robinson had told the judge she felt overconfident in her ability to handle the situation and had not been living the high life.

In a statement she had written he said she should have realised she needed help and that the hill (of debt) was getting too high to climb.

She said her clients had put their faith in her and it was getting out of control.

"They had thought I was a sure thing. I too thought I was a sure thing.''

Robinson said she had been coping with cancer and never started out to defraud anyone.

Outside court afterwards, sergeant Jackie Muir, who led the investigation, was relieved with the verdict.

"Despite victims receiving no reparation so far, I could just feel the relief when the victim's heard about her imprisonment."

Victim Jenny Twist, who was owed about $31,000 by Buddle, was also tearful and relieved after the verdict.

"I am over the moon, finally justice has been done. I am relieved she has gone to jail and am sure my husband, lying in a hospital bed, will be too. I just can't believe four years of hell is over."

Buddle was the owner of Get Smart Mortgages and Insurance, operating under the umbrella of Kiwi Mortgage Market.

She admitted she persuaded clients who had borrowed money to lend some of it to her. 

Buddle closed her office in December 2010 after coming under investigation by lenders and the insurance company she used.

When mortgage payments she had promised to pay went into arrears, some of her clients were forced to sell their homes and others were left struggling to struggling to survive.  

The Dominion Post