A Southland man facing 121 theft and fraud charges of more than $600,000 deposited work cheques into his own bank account, the Invercargill District Court has been told.
The list of charges was read to Paul Graham Yeo, 55, at the beginning of his judge-alone trial yesterday before Judge Michael Turner. He pleaded not guilty to each charge.
The charges included theft by a person in a special relationship, dishonestly using a document, obtaining by deception, causing loss by deception and forgery.
Yeo was brought back from Australia by two Invercargill police staff by an extradition order.
At the beginning of his trial, Crown lawyer Sarah McKenzie, in her opening address, said about half the charges arose from when Yeo was employed by Power Farming and related to items of machinery that went missing or Yeo receiving money and banking it into his own account.
The rest of the charges related to a business Yeo later went into with an associate and related to either missing property, dummy invoices, cheques banked into his own account and wrongful use of fuel accounts, McKenzie said.
Defence lawyer Roger Eagles did not make an opening statement.
Power Farming group of companies chief financial officer and company secretary Kevin Stowers told the court Yeo was employed by Power Farming as dealer principal in Southland. His role was to manage the business and conduct sales.
During his evidence, Stowers noted that Yeo was a good salesman.
Before his move to Power Farming, Yeo had sold his business, Small Bore Tappers. He brought the Husqvarna franchise with him and Power Farming paid the outstanding debts.
But some of the mowers did not turn up, Stowers said.
There always seemed to be issues with Yeo whenever a stocktake was carried out. He would say the items were in stock or were out on demo, he said.
Yeo had authority to use the chequebook, which had to be signed by two people. Cheques were not to be signed if they were not made out to a payee.
A request by Yeo for a signature on a cheque that did not have a payee filled in sparked an investigation, he said.
Stowers travelled to Invercargill to carry out a stocktake, where it was noted some items were unaccounted for.
Stowers detailed several occasions when Yeo would buy equipment and machinery and write out a Power Farming cheque for it but the cheque would be banked into his own account or used to pay debt, he said.
On one occasion, he pought a silage wagon and wrote out a cheque that he banked into his own account. The wagon was later sold for $872.
Yeo did not have authority to bank company cheques into his own account.
On another occasion, it was noticed a ride-on mower noted as being in stock was missing and Yeo had not generated a sales invoice. When confronted, he paid Power Farming $6600.
Another time, Yeo provided Power Farming an invoice where he had bought a tractor from a person. A Power Farming cheque was written out to pay for it but it was instead used to pay off a PGG Wrightson account, Stowers said.
On several occasions, when confronted, Yeo paid the company back.
Stowers' evidence will continue today.
- The Southland Times