'Shoulder-surfers' stole from drunks

Two ''shoulder-surfers'' who plundered the bank accounts of drunk victims of more than $40,000 have been jailed.

Fatu Kaiva and Norman Brian Sio, both 39, had histories of dishonesty before their latest scheme.

With a third offender, Joseph Telea, 38, who has already been jailed for two years and nine months, the scams involved a total of 42 victims and $72,000.

Judge Joanna Maze said the men had approached victims, who were usually drunk in Christchurch bars, over an eight-month period, often pretending to be sports players or members of the armed services.

They would befriend them and when drinks were bought they would "shoulder-surf" to memorise personal identification numbers as the victims used their bankcards.

Then the cards would be stolen and accounts would be cleaned out using the PINs already obtained.

Victims often had little or no memory of how their cards were taken off them.

"They described the events in markedly similar ways," said the judge.

"That's what led in the end to all this being discovered."

Many of the victims, or their banks, will be left out of pocket, because full reparation was seen as unrealistic.

Telea and Kaiva have each been ordered to pay back $11,000 - about a third of what they took - and Sio has to pay $8583. It is the full amount for Sio's offending.

Kaiva had admitted 13 charges of dishonestly obtaining bankcards, 13 of dishonestly using them and one of conspiring to commit the offences.

Sio admitted six charges of dishonestly obtaining bankcards and six of dishonestly using them.

Defence counsel Margaret Sewell, for Kaiva, and Rupert Glover, for Sio, said the guilty pleas had saved the expense of a complex trial. Their clients were willing to pay reparation once they were released from prison.

Crown prosecutor Nicola Robson said the offending had been premeditated, the men had acted together and a considerable amount of money had been obtained.

Judge Maze noted that Kaiva had 21 previous convictions for dishonesty and Sio had 35. Both had been imprisoned previously for similar offending.

She made allowance for their guilty pleas and jailed Kaiva for three years and Sio for two years and two months, and made reparation orders.

The Press