Gambling addict ripped off couple's life savings

Last updated 07:52 15/03/2013

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A Canadian visitor cynically scammed an elderly Taupo couple out of nearly $150,000 of their life savings to feed a gambling addiction.

J-Michael Mackett, 53, arrived in Taupo in June 2011 seeking work and immediately befriended the elderly couple after he had been sponsored into a two-year work permit by a Kinleith company.

Soon afterward, he began asking the wife for money. She initially lent Mackett $550 to pay for a car licence and was assured he would repay it.

Mackett said he had money in a Canadian pension fund, and produced documents from three investment banks to back up his claim. They were all fakes, Taupo District Court was told yesterday.

Between July 2011 and last April, the couple, who have permanent name suppression, lent Mackett a total of $148,600. It was their entire life savings.

In July 2011, Mackett got a Westpac Bank Visa Gold credit card with a $15,000 limit after ticking the online application form box that he was a permanent New Zealand resident. The card would not have been issued to a non-permanent resident. He ended up owing $23,356 on it.

Between October and November 2011, he used the counterfeit bank documents and the names of two false relatives to obtain money from Westpac Bank, which has sought $67,205 reparation.

Lawyer Steve Clarkson said Mackett's offending stemmed from a severe gambling addiction that consumed his life. "He was caught in a spiral to get money."

In sentencing Mackett to three years' jail on two representative charges of obtaining by deception, and using a document for pecuniary advantage, totalling 37 offences, Judge James Weir said he had "cynically exploited" the couple, who were helping him to settle in Taupo, in a determined effort to scam and bleed them dry.

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- The Dominion Post

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