Bradley offending premeditated

NICK KRAUSE
Last updated 14:44 19/10/2012
Jacqui Bradley
Fiona Goodall
GUILTY: Former B'On director Jacqui Bradley in the Auckland District Court during her trial.

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The offending of Jacqui Bradley, the former financial adviser jailed today for seven years and five months on fraud charges, was premeditated and left many elderly investors financially and emotionally ruined, the Auckland District Court heard.

A jury last month found Bradley, aged 61, guilty of 75 charges of fraud after a five-week trial. 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.

Judge Christopher Field, in sentencing today, said the extent of loss, harm and damage was "very significant indeed".

"You and your late husband were running a Ponzi scheme over a period of about seven years," he said.

"The records indicate that no legitimate investment of funds was made during this time."

Judge Field received 15 victim impact statements and many investors sat in the public gallery for the sentencing.

"I acknowledge the harm both financial and emotional that they (investors) have suffered by your actions," he said.

"Their lives have been completely devastated. You were in a position of trust. That trust has been abused."

Some of the victims were "particularly vulnerable" and cited the cases of a terminally ill man who lost $320,00o and gave video evidence to the Serious Fraud Office from his death bed. He died in January last year. Another investor was approached to invest his mother's estate after she died. That money too was lost.

"All of these matters are significantly aggravating features of the offending," the judge said.

Defence arguments that Bradley was not the mastermind in the business and undertook a more administrative role were rejected. "I regard your culpability to be high and at least as great as Mr Bradley's," Judge Field said.

Bradley was left to face the charges alone after her husband died in April 2011.The charges against her were brought under three separate Crimes Acts which each carried a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment.

There was a need for a significant deterrent jail term, the judge said.

Crown prosecutor Kristy McDonald QC called for a starting point of eight-and-a-half years' imprisonment as there were "very limited" mitigating factors in the case. "The gravity of the offence here is serious and culpability of the prisoner is high," she said.

There was a serious breach of trust and huge losses which qualified it as top-end offending. "The offending was clearly considered, deliberate and premeditated," she said.

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The motivation was greed, she said, and cited the payment of private school fees, leasing of an expensive Coromandel bach and large mortgage payments. None of the funds were invested in bonds or other instruments as investors were led to believe. The bogus investments were also supported by false investment documents.

The Crown's case was that funds instead were used to repay other investors and to fund the couple's lifestyle. Bradley's lawyer Ron Mansfield had asked for a starting point of six to seven years, discounted by a year. He maintained that after her husband's death, attention shifted to her, despite her largely subordinate role in the company. "Mrs Bradley was left to face the charges alone and the finger of blame was directed at her." He also denied the only motivation was greed as the couple had heavily mortgaged their home to fund the business.

It's the third prosecution involving an affinity fraud by financial advisers that the SFO has completed in the past three months with offending across all three cases totalling almost $21m.

In other recent white collar crime cases those found guilty received a range of sentences in line with that handed out to Bradley today.

Former Capital + Merchant directors Wayne Douglas and Neal Nicholls were give 7 and a half years jail in July on various fraud counts involving about $28m of transactions after Justice Edwin Wylie said they were motivate by greed and self-interest. DataSouth director Gavin Bennett got 8 years jail in May for defrauding South Canterbury Finance while Bridgecorp director Rod Petricevic got almost 7 years in April for misleading investors and spending company money on a luxury yacht.

Former ASB bank employee Stephen Velsalko got six years jail time in a 2010 case involving $17m stolen from his employer while in 2009 Michael Swann was given 9.5 years relating to a huge fraud against the Otago District Health Board.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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