Developer admits fake quake claim

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 11:52 22/01/2014

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A 42-year-old Christchurch property developer has pleaded guilty to two "wrap-up" charges, putting an end to a District Court jury trial before the opening addresses were due to be heard today.

Judge Stephen O'Driscoll discharged with Christchurch District Court jury, which had been selected on Monday and then sent away so that legal discussions and arguments could take place.

The woman had pleaded not guilty to eight charges of forgery and eight of using forged documents, two of altering documents with intent to deceive, two of using altered documents with intent to deceive, and one of dishonestly using a document.

When the hearing resumed today, Crown prosecutor Anselm Williams presented the court with an amended document that set out two representative charges.

The woman then pleaded guilty to charges that between September 2010 and March 2011 she forged various documents with intent to obtain a financial advantage, and that she knowingly used the forged documents as if they were genuine.

Judge O'Driscoll thanked the jury and discharged them, but the woman - who has name suppression until her sentencing - has pleaded not guilty to two remaining charges alleging that she forged a tenancy agreement and used it as if it were genuine.

That case will be heard as a judge-alone trial tomorrow morning.

Defence counsel Pip Hall QC asked Judge O'Driscoll not to enter convictions after the guilty pleas, which indicates an application for a discharge without conviction may be made at sentencing.

He said the defence had arranged for a psychiatric report on the woman in support of an application that would be made for final name suppression. The report is almost complete, and will be made available to the court soon.

Judge O'Driscoll asked for a pre-sentence report, along with a report on the woman's suitability for community or home detention. No reparation payment is being sought by the Crown.

The Crown says the charges relate to work done on properties the woman owned in Christchurch.

She put in one invoice in the name of a firm that did not exist, and for work that did not occur - though the woman disputes that.

An amount was inflated in a claim for other work.

Invoices submitted for work on other properties led to police executing a search warrant at the woman's address where a laptop computer and a pile of documents relating to the claims was found.

The Crown says that the date on one document relating to work done had been altered to make it after the February 2011 earthquake. She wrote out receipts dated March 2011.

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But among the documents, the police found a Terms of Trade and Acceptance Form stating that the work had been completed to a satisfactory standard. That document was dated December 2010, before the February earthquake.

When questioned, the woman said the problems arose from confusion about the claims documentation.

The claims amount to several thousand dollars, but much of it was not paid out after an EQC Claims Review Team investigation.

Sentencing is set for a nominal date of May 14, but will be changed because of other commitments for the defence lawyer at that time.

The woman remains on bail.

- The Press

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