Damas Flohr in the Dunedin District Court during his trial in November. Photo by ODT.
A Tahitian-born conman jailed for defrauding fellow Seventh
Day Adventists of $853,000 in a Nigerian oil scam was highly
likely to commit similar offences in the future, a Dunedin
District Court judge said yesterday.
Damas Tutehau Flohr (69) was sentenced to four years' jail
yesterday but, ''alarmingly'', still carried the ''delusional
view these schemes, which can only be described as scams,
will deliver up riches'', Judge Michael Crosbie said.
Flohr, who had a commerce degree from Canterbury University,
had charmed and pressured fellow church members in Dunedin
out of $853,215 in 2008 and 2009.
He used his friendship with his pastor and others to obtain
large amounts of money he said was needed to free up multiple
millions of dollars being held for him in a New York bank.
But the millions never eventuated and seven of his fellow
church members were poorer by a total of $853,215.
The possibility of the victims being repaid was negligible,
given Flohr's age, his lack of assets and his inability to
earn a living, Judge Crosbie said.
But he set a reparation figure of $563,121 - two-thirds of
the loss to the seven victims - and ordered payment on a
Money might legitimately come into Flohr's possession through
possible future land deals in Tahiti and, if that did happen,
the victims should have the money, the judge said.
Flohr pleaded guilty part-way through his trial last November
on seven charges of obtaining by deception.
But despite his guilty pleas, he clearly still believed there
were mythical millions waiting for him in the New York Mellon
Bank and that, after the correct procedure had been
completed, he would be able to claim them.
Because of this, there was clearly ''a very high likelihood''
he would offend again in a similar way, Judge Crosbie said.
He described the harm to the victims as significant. Flohr
had used his charm and guile to manipulate their Christian
ethos, taking advantage of longstanding relationships and the
trust they had in him and his wife.
But that charm later turned to unrelenting pressure when he
took some of his victims to their banks to obtain cash which
would then be transferred to China or Nigeria through Western
There came a time when Flohr's approaches to his fellow
church members became reckless and fraudulent.
He was pressing several people at the same time without
disclosing that to any of them and he did nothing to secure
the safety of their money.
He exaggerated the authenticity of the funds and the likely
Flohr was clearly using the same methods at the same time
with several victims and must have been aware of the falsity
of what he was doing, Judge Crosbie said.
A psychiatric report concluded there was no past medical or
And from various pre-sentence reports and submissions from
Crown prosecutor Robin Bates and defence counsel Max Winders,
it was apparent Flohr still felt the events leading to the
charges were genuine and the money was still in overseas bank
While he had expressed some sadness about the losses to the
victims, Flohr did not see himself as an offender.
He believed the money existed, that it was his and that,
after the correct procedures had been completed, he could
Flohr had himself lost money to the scam before his
offending, so the likelihood of him reoffending was high -
''because of your belief''.
His victims had lost very large amounts in some cases - one
elderly couple handing over $198,000 during five months in
2009 because they felt sorry for him.
And Flohr had obtained almost $250,000 from his church pastor
and his wife, more than $300,000 from the pastor's sister,
and lesser sums ranging from $2500 to $59,000 from other
The seriousness of the offending was exacerbated by the age
of some of the victims and the fact they had been left with a
lack of security in their senior years.
Their age and their naivete had made them vulnerable.
An aggravating factor was the time over which the offending
occurred and the fact there had been 162 separate instances
of deception, Judge Crosbie said.
He told Flohr the old saying ''if it seems too good to be
true, it probably is'' certainly applied in his case. He
hoped the sentencing would be a warning to people who came
into contact with Flohr in future.