Fraud conviction after $15m collapse

NICK KRAUSE
Last updated 17:57 04/09/2012
Jacqui Bradley
Fiona Goodall
GUILTY: Former B'On director Jacqui Bradley in the Auckland District Court during her trial.

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A jury has found former financial adviser Jacqui Bradley guilty of 75 charges of fraud.

Bradley ran the failed finance company B'On Financial Services with her late husband Mike until it collapsed in December 2009 owing 28 investors $15.5 million.

After a five-week trial, the jury at the Auckland District Court took less than four-and-a-half hours to find the former financial adviser guilty of 75 theft and dishonesty charges.

The pair steadily grew the business and eventually located it in the sought-after Vero building offices in Auckland's Shortland Street.

They never advertised but, through word-of-mouth, managed to continue to build up clientele even after her husband's first heart attack.

In 1988 Bradley published the investment book The Winning Woman under her maiden name O'Neill. The book was given to investors and was handed out at investment seminars the couple ran.

Bradley was left to face the charges alone after her husband died in April 2011.

She denied all 75 counts.

Her lawyer Ron Mansfield argued her husband had been the key to the business while she had a largely subordinate role and took care of administration. Drawings taken from the business were business-related and covered legitimate expenses, he told the court. They were entitled to be paid, the court heard.

But Crown prosecutor Kristy McDonald QC contended the couple worked as a team and took investor funds for a purpose they had not authorised.

The couple ran a Ponzi-type scheme, the Crown said, to not only repay other investors but to also fund their "lavish" lifestyle.

Evidence was given of investor funds being used to repay credit card debts, fund school fees, lease a Coromandel property as well as a BMW vehicle.

The court had also heard evidence that the couple had always intended to repay investors.

Mansfield suggested there was an overseas account intended for this purpose but a forensic accountant earlier told the court there was no evidence of any large sum being transferred to cover this eventuality.

The Bradleys had also sought $50 million from US company Brockstar for which they paid a substantial amount upfront.

Neither that amount nor the $50m ever came.

The Crown asked why the Bradleys would need the Brockstar money if there was a "pot of gold" in an offshore account.

Bradley has been remanded until her sentencing on October 19.

The various charges were brought under three separate Crimes Acts which each cite a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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