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Guilty verdicts in $41 million lending fraud case

Media Release

31 July 2018

A jury has found two men guilty of fraudulently obtaining a large bank loan to build an Auckland inner-city apartment block.

Property developer Leonard John Ross (51) and company director Michael James Wehipeihana (46) were convicted today at the High Court in Auckland on three charges of ‘Obtaining by deception’ and two representative charges of ‘Using forged documents’ brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

Mr Ross and Mr Wehipeihana made false statements and used forged documents in order to obtain a $41-million development loan from the ANZ Bank to allow their company, Emily Projects Limited, to construct the Waldorf Celestion Apartment Hotel.

SFO Director, Julie Read said, “Mr Ross and Mr Wehipeihana misled the bank to ensure that Emily Projects Limited obtained the loan facility. The SFO is committed to investigating and prosecuting this kind of offending to maintain the integrity of the mortgage market for the benefit of honest borrowers.”

Mr Ross and Mr Wehipeihana have been remanded on bail to reappear at the High Court in Auckland for sentencing on 26 September.

The two other men involved in the fraudulent scheme are each currently serving sentences of 10-months’ home detention. Vaughn Stephen Foster (56), a self-employed consultant, pleaded guilty to one representative charge of ‘Obtaining by deception’ just before the eight-week trial commenced and was sentenced in June. Timothy Upton Slack (56), a lawyer, pleaded guilty to one representative charge of ‘Obtaining by deception’ on 1 September last year and was sentenced later that month.

ENDS

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