Conman's victims' homes in jeopardy
Victims of mortgage fraudster Glenn Cooper face losing their homes after the conman sold them properties and arranged large mortgages using vastly inflated valuations, their lawyer says.
Cooper, 39, yesterday pleaded guilty in the Manukau District Court to five charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office of dishonestly using a document. He was remanded on bail until sentencing on March 8.
The charges relate to five property sales totalling $800,000 in late 2011 to members of one Samoan family. Cooper made a profit on the transactions and prepared misleading mortgage applications to finance the deals.
In May 2011 cancer-stricken Auckland Blues rugby player Kurtis Haiu punched Cooper in the face, leaving him with a black eye, after a series of property deals that left Haiu out of pocket nearly $500,000. But Haiu's transactions did not form part of the SFO prosecution against Cooper. Haiu was discharged without conviction after the assault.
Acting SFO chief executive Simon McArley said Cooper's modus operandi relied on deceit. "The investors were sold on a fantasy that purchasing these investment properties would successfully consolidate debt and solve their problems. Cooper played on the affinity he had built with one family in particular. This has only added to their financial strife."
Geoff Bilkey, the family's lawyer, who is representing Cooper's victims free, said the developer exploited his Samoan clients. One property in Tokoroa sold by Cooper to the family for $230,000 fetched only $28,000 at a recent mortgagee sale - leaving a large sum still owing to ANZ Bank.
"The problem with Tokoroa is it's a fairly depressed place," Bilkey said. "If you could find a tenant who paid on time, and got it cheap enough, you might be OK. But if you're paying a grossly inflated price and have given your family home as collateral, you're screwed."
Bilkey said Property Law Act notices had been issued over the family homes of many of Cooper's victims, but he was hopeful yesterday's guilty plea would help bring a settlement for the family involved in the court charges.
An ANZ spokesman declined to comment.
Bilkey said this family was only the tip of the iceberg and he represented 14 other families suffering after business dealings with Cooper involving properties stretching from Manurewa in South Auckland to Taupo.
Bilkey welcomed the prosecution, but said it had not come soon enough or gone far enough to help most of his clients.
"I've been on this for three years - and he was still arranging deals six months ago," he said.
Cooper was bankrupted in September and official records show he is listed as receiving an unemployment benefit.
The SFO began investigating Cooper after a series of BusinessDay articles detailed how vulnerable families and church groups had been left with big debts after price-ramping by Cooper.