Fraudster jailed after theft to pay reparation

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
A man who defrauded a finance company to fund reparation was yesterday sentenced to almost two years in prison by Judge Mark Callaghan in the Queenstown District Court.

In March, Andrew Charles Tonks (35), of Frankton, admitted theft by a person in a special relationship from Apex Car Rentals New Zealand, totalling $12,000 between December 20 and 31, 2015.

He also admitted having control of a 2003 Nissan Sunny and a 2006 Toyota Corolla, property of Apex, and dealt with them otherwise than in accordance, thereby committing theft, totalling $7500, between December 1 and 31, 2015.

He was to have been sentenced on September 19, but while on bail Tonks used forged documents to obtain $23,850 from Turners Finance, which he intended to use to fund reparation.

The pre-sentence report - prepared ahead of his September sentencing date - recommended imprisonment. However, defence counsel Louise Denton submitted yesterday community detention, community work and supervision was appropriate.

Judge Callaghan said while Ms Denton's proposal seemed ``entirely appropriate'' in September, sentencing him yesterday caused him ``some difficulty''.

``It makes it more difficult for the court to accept that sort of a sentence [when] you, knowing reparation was wanted ... went into an elaborate scheme to gain reparation by trying to dupe a finance company ... so that you could ... say that you could pay reparation in full, and therefore minimise the sentence that you got.''

Tonks was appointed Apex's depot manager, based in Queenstown, in November 2015, and began offending within six weeks.

He was required to do the banking daily, but ceased to do so and gave various excuses, including that the money had been ``lost'', and provided false documentation.

Some of the money was put into his own account, the balance was gambled.

The company also sold vehicles it no longer required - in November, Tonks received an inquiry about a Nissan Sunny and met the purchaser on December 1. He convinced them to buy the car for $2800 and pay him in cash.

On December 14, he sold a Toyota Corolla for $4000; the money was paid into his personal bank account.

After he was remanded for sentence, Tonks set about gathering money for the reparation.

He applied for up to $28,000 from Turners Finance to buy a vehicle, told Turners he'd found a vehicle in late June, and in July located a Nissan Navara advertised for $29,500.

Tonks contacted the seller, said he needed to apply for finance and convinced him to send Tonks a photo of his driver's licence and a window sticker with the vehicle identification number.

The Navara was sold to another party, but Tonks led Turners to believe he had bought it by using forged documents.

Turners paid $23,850 into his account, which was to be paid back in instalments. No payments had been made by September, so the finance company tried to repossess the vehicle, only to find Tonks never had it.

On September 16, three days before his scheduled sentencing, he admitted falsifying documentation and repaid the money to the finance company.

Judge Callaghan said while Tonks had no previous convictions in New Zealand, he had seven in Australia, five of those in 2014 for which a suspended prison sentence was imposed.

The initial presentence report assessed him at a medium risk of reoffending, said he showed no remorse and had blamed his employer for ``lack of training''.

Ms Denton described the Apex offending as ``opportunistic'', with the money he stole sent to Australia to pay a solicitor in relation to an ongoing business dispute.

The Turners offending was because he was ``desperately trying to come up with reparation funds'', but he had paid the money back immediately on request.

He had issues with alcohol and gambling - the latter was to try to get the ``windfall he needed to keep everything afloat''.

But Judge Callaghan said the lengths Tonks would go to to ``dupe'' people out of money and the meticulous planning involved meant imprisonment was the ``correct response''.

He was jailed for 22 and a-half months with special conditions to attend and complete alcohol, drug and gambling programmes on release, and pay $18,800 reparation to Apex.