Guilty plea in advertising scam case

Last updated 10:05 25/07/2014

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A former Wellington man has pleaded guilty to his part in an advertising-invoice scam alleged to have lost its victims more than $1 million.

James Stephen Burns, 41, now living in Auckland, pleaded guilty to 14 charges via an audio-visual link to the High Court in Wellington today.

The charges alleged he dishonestly used faxed proofs of an advertisement between 2009 and 2012.

Each charge related to a different bogus magazine for which ads were sold. Often the magazines had titles similar to legitimate publications, many suggesting worthy causes such as road safety or good parenting.

It was alleged the magazines were never printed or that the number printed and circulated was grossly exaggerated.

Justice David Collins remanded Burns on bail to September 19 for sentencing. The judge asked for a report on Burns' suitability for a home-detention sentence.

The scam first featured on TV3's Campbell Live current affairs programme, sparking a joint investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), police, the Organised and Financial Crimes Agency of New Zealand, the Commerce Commission, Customs, and Inland Revenue.

Six people were arrested in October 2012. At that time an SFO spokesman said the group's activities had been noticed by some of the agencies earlier. However, the joint approach meant a detailed investigation was done in a relatively short period of time.

Late last year one member of the group was sentenced to community work and supervision after pleading guilty to five charges.

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- The Dominion Post

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