'Nightmare' fight for justice

FRAUDSTER: Henry Alfred Goolsbee found guilty of conning a woman of nearly $100,000.
FRAUDSTER: Henry Alfred Goolsbee found guilty of conning a woman of nearly $100,000.

An American "archbishop" jailed for swindling the life savings from a Melbourne woman claimed he and his family were refugees from the Japanese tsunami and was given food and furniture from people in the Nelson area.

He also owed rent to two landlords in the Motueka area.

Henry Alfred Goolsbee, who claims to be an archbishop of a celtic anabaptist ministry, was jailed for two years three months on Tuesday for obtaining $97,985 by deception. He was found guilty by a jury after representing himself in Nelson District Court.

Goolsbee has appealed his sentence. He was denied bail on Wednesday and must wait in jail for his appeal to be heard in February.

Goolsbee maintains he can turn seawater into a super nutrient and said he was sitting on a multimillion-dollar business that he was launching in Nelson.

He set up a factory in Mt Gambier, South Australia, which he said was sabotaged by vandals, spilling $10- $12 million of the product on to a nearby field.

His website claimed he was going to donate millions of dollars of profit from the company to charity and that the product would "save Australian farmers from drought and climate change".

However, his factory, which was extracting saltwater from the sea, did not have the necessary consents. It was shut down by the local authorities.

Crown prosecutor Jackson Webber said Australian investors had filed civil action against Goolsbee to recover $37,000.

Goolsbee conned Melbourne woman Julie Spicer into giving him her life savings of $97,985 to help in the publication of a book he claimed to be writing on Mary Magdalene.

He never published the book, and soon after Spicer transferred the money to Goolsbee in New Zealand, the family were in Rarotonga, where they stayed for some time.

Spicer said she was not the first person Goolsbee had fleeced, nor would she be the last, and she wanted to speak out about him to warn others.

"He is a predator that preys on the vulnerable."

Goolsbee has been living in Motueka, but at the time of his sentencing he and his Japanese wife and three children aged 15, 13 and 11, were living in emergency housing with the Salvation Army in Richmond. Salvation Army community manager Major Jill Knight said she did not want to talk to the Nelson Mail about the family.

Anna Wood, of Moutere, said Goolsbee and his family rented a cottage on their orchard. He was asked to leave after not paying rent.

She said they had trouble almost the whole time Goolsbee was renting from them getting the money they were owed.

In the end Goolsbee left owing about two weeks' rent. He said he would cover one week by leaving some furniture behind. They later found out money was owed on the furniture.

Goolsbee had plastic containers outside his cottage which were supposedly used in his fertiliser business.

Goolsbee spoke to her husband about using the product on their orchard, but he "did not want to go there", Wood said.

A Tenancy Tribunal order in March shows that Goolsbee owed $2250 in rent on a Thorp St, Motueka, property.

Di-Ana Win lived next door to Goolsbee on the orchard and moved into the cottage Goolsbee and his family had rented after they moved out.

She said Goolsbee was often trying to get something for nothing and she believed he owed money to a few people in Motueka.

Goolsbee was a smooth talker. "He was always saying he had millions in overseas accounts."

She said despite claiming to be a gardener, he did no work on the garden and left it totally overgrown, with grass up to the cottage's windows.

She said his children busked outside supermarkets and the family sold fruit from the orchard at the Motueka market to make money.

She said his family appeared to be subservient to him, and his wife was not allowed to talk to her at the clothesline. "He was a very controlling man."

She knew people who had given the family furniture after Goolsbee said at the Mapua Fair at Easter his family were victims of the Japanese tsunami.

In court, Goolsbee maintained that he was working on his Ormus liquid nutrient business, which was worth millions, and he would be selling it by the tonne.

He said he was talking to Nelson companies, including Tasman Bay Olives, Carter Holt Harvey, Kahurangi Estate and Tasman Bay Wines, but the wet winter meant he was unable to get the trucks into the fields to get the product.

Roger Armstrong, of Tasman Bay Olives, said Goolsbee approached him in June or July to take away about 60 tonnes of waste product to use in the fertiliser he was developing.

"From our point of view it was a positive way to get rid of a waste material."

He did not have a lot of contact with Goolsbee, whom he described as "a bit out there".

Goolsbee gave him a small container of his product, which he has not used. He'd had a feeling he would not see Goolsbee next season.

Immigration New Zealand said this week Goolsbee and his family were in New Zealand on valid visitor visas.

The family were on limited visas to enable them to stay while the court proceedings were under way.

The visas expired on September 30 and Goolsbee's wife and children were now expected to leave the country or face deportation.

Goolsbee registered two companies in New Zealand. He and his wife Masami are shareholders of the General Conference Celtic Anabaptist communion, which was registered in November 2010.

His other company is called the Mystical Forest Foundation Ltd, which has links to a website supposedly selling soil science kits to children and young adults. He was selling a product called Vivalent.

Spicer said from Melbourne she met Goolsbee in June 2010 after visiting his house to buy a green couch he had advertised for sale on eBay.

Goolsbee told her he was a businessman, environmentalist and humanitarian who set up successful co-operatives in developing countries before moving on to help another community.

He also said he was active in animal rescue and had set up programmes for single parents.

"I am a youth worker, have been involved in animal rescue my whole life."

He was convincing because he made his claims in front of his wife and children.

"He placed maps on the table of an island in the South Pacific where he said he had commenced talks with the Government to set up an eco-tourism business, but that was on hold because of the sabotage to the Ormus business."

The Goolsbees shifted to New Zealand, leaving two cats in Spicer's care.

She was told she would be shouted a trip to New Zealand to re-unite the family with the cats and his driver "Moustaffa" would drive her to the airport. She had to re-home them.

Spicer said Goolsbee told her he was ready to publish a book and needed urgent funds to publish it in time for upcoming book fairs.

He had already published one book on the alchemy of Mary Magdalene, he said.

In July 2010 Ms Spicer sent Goolsbee nearly $100,000; her life savings. Goolsbee told her he needed somewhere quiet to write the book and that she would double her money and have a job promoting the novel.

Two months after sending the money to Goolsbee she realised she was a victim of the fraud.

After several unsuccessful attempts at reporting the fraud to Australian police, she enlisted the help of Jon Risby, a solicitor at the St Kilda Legal Service in Melbourne.

New Zealand police received a complaint in December 2010 and in January 2011 Goolsbee was arrested.

Spicer said her life had been a nightmare since meeting Goolsbee, and the consequences of losing all her money was soul-destroying.

"He is so smug and believed he would never be caught.

"I was never going to give up bringing him to justice."

The Nelson Mail