Soffes' fraudulent high life revealed

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 19:09 31/07/2014
Gary Soffe
FAIRFAX NZ
MORE JAIL TIME: Gary Soffe’s sentence for fraud has been extended after he was convicted on new charges.

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The wife of a former Te Awamutu accountant who led the high life after ripping off his clients has also been convicted after forensic investigators discovered new offending.

Meanwhile, the accountant, Garry William Soffe, has had his sentence extended by 15 months.

In 2011, Soffe, 53, was jailed for five years and one month on one charge of false accounting and nine charges of theft by a person in a special relationship. Between 2006 and 2010 he admitted stealing more than $4.2 million from eight different trusts linked to one family.

After siphoning the funds Soffe and his wife Susan lived the high life, building a sprawling mansion at Tamahere, complete with pool, hydro-slide, astro-turf tennis court and $80,000 sound system.

The Waikato Times can today reveal that police have since uncovered further thefts totalling $2.16m and going back a further six years to 2000.

When questioned by police soon after his arrest, Soffe claimed that his computers had been destroyed and he could only recall offending back to 2006.

However, police were dubious and tasked forensic investigators to inspect the computers, which eventually uncovered further thefts.

The new offending also involved Susan Soffe, 49, who admitted charges of money laundering, receiving stolen property and using a document to obtain more than $4000 in benefits after her husband's incarceration.

The pair pleaded guilty to a variety of charges last year – just a couple of months prior to their trial starting.

They were convicted and sentenced in the Hamilton District Court in early December, but their names and details of the new offending have remained secret until now as details were suppressed during the court process and they applied for permanent suppression at sentencing.

Judge Glen Marshall agreed to suppress their names for six months; with the order lapsing today at 5pm.

He convicted Gary Soffe and handed down an extra 15 months' prison after admitting 18 charges of theft by a person in a special relationship.

Susan Soffe was sentenced to eight months' home detention on a charge of money laundering, using a document for pecuniary advantage and five charges of receiving stolen property.

Crown prosecutor Jacinda Foster said Gary Soffe was the architect and facilitator of a substantially dishonest scheme for over 10 years.

"[Soffe's] assertion was that all records before 2006 were destroyed . The defendant was given significant credit for his co-operation and offer of reparation." But in fact, Soffe had knowingly covered up thefts in the range of $2.16m, Foster said.

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The settler of the family trust died in 1999, with Soffe beginning his offending the following year. The victim's wife died in 2010.

"Soffe presumed responsibility for managing various entities after both [victims] deceased. He had complete trust and confidence of them." As for Susan Soffe, between April 2004 and December 2008, she channelled $301,000 into a personal account in the names of her and her husband.

Other monies were transferred into other accounts.

Judge Marshall said she played "a very much secondary role", working in the practice as an office administrator while being aware of her husband's actions.

While he could accept some initial "naivety" about what her husband was up to, due to the large sums of money involved "it would have been blatantly obvious that monies were being dishonestly taken through the business".

Judge Marshall said Susan Soffe was "reckless" in regards to the receiving property charges, however the money laundering and using a document charges proved "specific intent on your part".

The money laundering involved her moving money and opening bank accounts for purchases, including a $1.1m sports yacht – which was later sold – and a section in Fiji for $1.5m.

The using a document charge related to her applying for a domestic purposes benefit from the Ministry of Social Development after her husband was jailed in 2011. Susan Soffe received $4450 in benefits when she wasn't entitled as the family had money in various trusts.

He said Susan Soffe was at low risk of reoffending and harm to others.

As for Gary Soffe, Judge Marshall said his actions had a significant impact on not only the victims but also the profession of chartered accountants and their relationship with members of the community.

Susan Soffe's counsel Bruce Hesketh said her friends had described her as a loving wife, and a very gentle person if somewhat naive and gullible.

Kerry Burroughs, on behalf of Gary Soffe, said his client was pleased to see the matter come to an end and that they avoided the necessity of a trial.


- Waikato Times

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