Piano dealer sentenced to jail

Last updated 14:33 19/10/2012
Cameron Crawford
Pianoshop director Cameron Crawford has pleaded guilty to fraud charges.

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Plimmerton piano dealer Cameron Phillip Crawford has been sentenced to two years and one month jail for a $172,000 fraud on customers of his failed business.

Crawford, 39, a first offender, described himself as a musician not a businessman.

His business Pianoshop went into liquidation in May owing more than $2 million. He could not pay reparation for his offending.

In Wellington District Court today Judge Denys Barry said Crawford had repeatedly fobbed off victims who wanted the proceeds from pianos sold on their behalf, or wanting pianos they had paid for but not received.

In one case a man who paid thousands to have a piano repaired finally got it back eight years later in the same condition in which he had sent it to Crawford.

Crawford had been using customers' money to pay company debts.

Crawford and his wife will lose their home to a secured creditor with no money for other creditors or the Crawfords.

Crawford has been working in the hospitality industry since his business failed.

He pleaded guilty to 10 charges of theft by failing to account and one of causing loss by deception.

Judge Barry said Crawford's depressive illness had escalated as his offending escalated.

Judge Barry noted that the sentence of two years, one month fell just outside the threshold on which Crawford would usually be considered for home detention.

However, he may not have granted an electronically monitored sentence if it was within the band because of the ''gross breach of trust'' of trust to individuals, for many of whom their pianos had been a significant investment.

''What he did involved repeated lying, prevarication, empty assurances to individuals who placed their trust in him while he was glibly and repeatedly deceiving them. To many, these pianos were more than just objects, they had family associations, or represented assets that were significant parts of their retirement plans.''

Throughout the sentencing Crawford, who was supported in court by his wife, parents and friends, stood motionless, head hung.

Earlier prosecutor Miriam Sinclair told the court the offending had involved repeated lies, using funds from piano sales to cover other debts.

Describing the offending as one of the worst of its kind in terms of theft by a person in a special relationship, Miss Sinclair suggested that the starting point for sentencing should be up to five years in prison.

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Crawford's lawyer Mike Antunović told the court that there was no dispute over the facts, or the level of damages. Crawford he said, had read every victim impact statement closely and felt ''unalloyed remorse''.

However Mr Antunović said the events before the court were ones involving a man who now acknowledged that he was a musician, not a businessman, who had fallen into depression.

The court head a pre-sentence report from a psychiatrist who accepted that said Crawford had suffered a bout of depression starting in about 2009 as the business suffered from a downturn in trading.

The illness worsened throughout the two and a half years of offending, peaking in April or May of this year, the time at which the business eventually folded.

Mr Antunović noted that Crawford had made little personal gain out of the business, with even some of his wife's earnings invested into the business to keep it going.

''It was just a matter of trying to keep that business afloat and ensure the continued employment of up to 15 employees.''

Mr Antunović noted that Crawford had successfully battled with a gambling problem in the past. A sentence of home detention would allow him to continue to attempt Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, as well as continued treatment for his depression.

Judge Barry said there was no reason any form of treatment could be continued while in prison.

- The Dominion Post

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