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Developer and company director jailed for $41 million fraud

01 October 2018

Two businessmen have been jailed on charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of fraudulently obtaining a large bank loan to build an Auckland inner-city apartment block.

Property developer Leonard John Ross, 52, was sentenced to four years and four months’ imprisonment, while company director Michael James Wehipeihana, 46, was sentenced to four years and three months’ imprisonment.

The SFO says Mr Ross and Mr Wehipeihana lied to the ANZ Bank in order to obtain a $41 million development loan for their company, Emily Projects Ltd, to construct the Waldorf Celestion Apartment Hotel. The pair lied to the bank about the number of genuine presales they had made. They used forged documents, including sale and purchase agreements, to support the loan application. Later, they used additional forged documents when the apartments were on-sold to genuine purchasers.

The SFO says both men were sentenced at the Auckland High Court. A jury found them guilty in July following an eight-week trial on all charges they faced, namely three charges of ‘Obtaining by deception’ and two representative charges of ‘Using forged documents’.

“The sentences imposed reflect the seriousness of offending. Mr Ross and Mr Wehipeihana misled the bank to ensure that Emily Projects Ltd obtained the loan facility,” says SFO Director, Julie Read.

The two other men involved in the fraudulent scheme were earlier sentenced to 10 months’ home detention. Vaughn Stephen Foster, a self-employed consultant, pleaded guilty to one representative charge of ‘Obtaining by deception’ just before the trial commenced and was sentenced in June. Former lawyer, Timothy Upton Slack, pleaded guilty to one representative charge of ‘Obtaining by deception’ on 1 September 2017 and was sentenced later that month.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019