Bogus $700k earthquake claim

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 13:27 21/11/2013

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The chief executive of Christchurch company Black Box Spatial Ltd has admitted deceiving an insurance company into paying out more than $700,000 in business interruption insurance after the earthquakes.

He also admitted deceiving two investors into putting more money into the company. The Burnside-based company is now listed as being in liquidation.

Stuart Crellin Bell, 37, pleaded guilty to seven charges of using altered documents, using forged documents, document fraud, and obtaining a financial advantage by deception, at a pre-trial session in the Christchurch District Court today.

Judge Jane Farish remanded him on bail to January 22 for sentencing. She asked for a pre-sentence report which will cover his suitability for home detention, but said she was "making no promises".

"Mr Bell is well aware of the jeopardy he's in," said defence counsel Richard Maze.

The judge asked for victim impact reports to be prepared, and a psychiatric report has already been put before the court.

When Judge Farish asked about a reparation report,  Maze said no reparation was being sought for the insurer, but reparation for other victims was "more vexed".

"Mr Bell is not going to be in a position to make significant reparation," he told the court.

Bell has admitted dishonestly using four altered emails, dishonestly using a Black Box Spatial Ltd profit and loss detail, using a forged payment advice summary, and dishonestly using another document relating to a Road User Charge rebate programme.

Other charges relate to a declaration of loss and discharge, six forged contracts, and obtaining $713,129 from the insurance company by deception.

Crown prosecutor Anselm Williams said Black Box was a software business that developed and provided operational software and business information systems.

Bell convinced investors that he was on the verge of significant cash flow through the development of a Road User Charges Off Road Rebate programme. He requested further capital investment.

Two investors put more money into the company, but inquiries showed that the emails used to back up the claims had been altered or were entirely false.

Black Box was paid out by the insurance company for damage and business interruption claims arising from the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes.

The company claimed and received $713,129 from the insurance company for business interruption from being unable to process road user charge rebates for its alleged clients.

Bell emailed an insurance loss adjustor copies of contracts with six companies. All appeared to be written in the same pen, and none of the signatures identified the name of the person alleged to have endorsed the contracts, and most were illegible.

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Williams said: "Inquiries were made with each company and established that the contracts were false and Black Box had not been contracted to complete road user charge rebates on their behalf."

Bell continues to live in Auckland while on bail.

- The Press

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