'Fantasist' fabricated lawyer to avoid bills

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2014
Brian Hunter
IN COURT: Brian Hunter.

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A serial conman with 184 convictions has been told a jail sentence is likely after he was found guilty of deception by impersonating a lawyer.

Brian Hunter, who was described by his own lawyer as a fantasist, yesterday clocked up convictions 183 and 184 after being found guilty of two charges of obtaining by deception in a judge-only trial in Napier District Court.

In his latest offending, Hunter, 55, purported variously to be Michael O'Hara, supposedly a Kapiti Coast lawyer, Brian O'Hara, and Brian Shaw, when employing two removal firms to shift his effects from Ashhurst to Waipukurau in April 2012, and Waipukurau to Hastings six months later.

Both companies believed they were e-mailing or speaking to one of the O'Haras or Shaw. The companies were left with outstanding bills of $5434.70 and $2700. One was awarded payment after taking Hunter to the Disputes Tribunal, but the debt remains unpaid.

Hunter's lawyer, Phil Jensen, said the disputes were civil matters and claimed the police, NZ Post and a real estate agent had accessed private information to which they were not entitled.

The court heard that police were contacted after Crown Removals' invoice was unpaid and an employee could find no record of a lawyer named Michael O'Hara, or the company he claimed to run, O'Hara Law Help.

Yesterday Detective Sergeant Daryl Moore told the court a search of Hunter's computer files found a number of documents written by Shaw and Michael O'Hara, including one to the ombudsman's office from O'Hara, who purported to be living in Ireland.

Several computers and cellphones were seized from Hunter, and the phones responded to the numbers given to the removal firms for Shaw and O'Hara.

Judge Jonathan Down said there was an "irresistible inference" that Hunter had created "an elaborate deceit to avoid payment".

On reading Hunter's long list of previous convictions, Judge Down said he was "a career conman" and "I am seriously considering a sentence of imprisonment".

Mr Jensen said he felt Hunter was a fantasist, and the judge agreed a psychological assessment would be of benefit. Hunter will be sentenced in April.

Last month he was sentenced to 300 hours' community work in the same court after pleading guilty to flying a plane without a licence. He used the name Brian Shaw, and told the vendor of a plane that he was a pilot.

In 1998 he was convicted of fraud and endangering lives after impersonating a flying instructor.

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FANTASY LIFE

Brian Damian Hunter, 55, now has 184 convictions. Nearly all involve dishonesty offending.

He was first convicted in Wellington in 1974.

He has received many non-custodial sentences, and was jailed in 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1998.

- The Dominion Post

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