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Fraudster jailed

Jason Gregory. PHOTO/ GIANINA SCHWANECKE

Cheques were signed ‘from Santa’
‘Despicable act’ punished

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
[email protected]

The evidence read like a modern pirate tale – of hidden loot – more than $450,000 worth of gold bullion, drones and motorcycles bought using fake cheques – almost none of it recovered.

The goods were fraudulently bought by Featherston man Jason Gregory, 33, to feed a methamphetamine addiction, the Wellington District Court was told on Tuesday when he appeared for sentencing on 18 charges of obtaining by deception and using forged documents.

He was sentenced to prison for two years and 10 months but is immediately eligible for parole because he has spent close to a year in prison on remand.

The charges he pleaded guilty to related to offending which happened from December 2018 to February 2019.

Gregory used stolen and expired HSBC and National Bank cheque books – banks which no longer exist – to pay for items bought online.

He ordered more than $210,000 worth of drones from various websites.

About $100,000 in jewellery, and gold bullion worth about $100,000, were also ordered online.

In one case, a supplier accidentally sent double the requested amount, two 100-ounce gold bars worth more than $36,000.

Gregory also bought several motorbikes and a quadbike – worth more than $60,000.

Judge Chris Tuohy said it was fortunate that an order for 10 guns and several scopes was cancelled.

The cheques were issued using fake names, and some were signed “from Santa” and “hahaha”.

In January last year, he began using counterfeit $50 and $100 bills at Wairarapa businesses, including service stations and bars in Featherston and Masterton.

Judge Tuohy described it as “sustained” and “substantial” offending.

Security footage in Featherston captured last year’s exchange of two fake $50 notes for five real $20 notes. PHOTO/FILE

“All that has been obtained has disappeared and been lost to the victims,” he said.

Only some of the drones and a quadbike valued at about $9500 were recovered by police.

Defence lawyer Catherine Gisler asked the court to impose a sentence of home detention or completing rehabilitation in a residential treatment programme, as he had already spent close to a year on remand.

“It’s difficult to see what further deterrent a prison sentence would serve,” she said.

Gisler said her client was motivated to rehabilitate himself for his family and had expressed remorse to his victims in letters provided to the court.

She said he would be prepared to pay “modest” reparations but Judge Tuohy disagreed, saying, “it will make it worse for the victims to think that they are going to get some money they are never going to get”.

Two fake $50 notes exchanged for five real $20 notes. PHOTO/FILE

During sentencing, he adopted a starting point of three years and nine months imprisonment.

This included an uplift of four months for prior convictions relating to dishonesty, driving, assault, and drug charges.

“There has been almost continuous offending, the most serious of which has been meth dealing.”

A 25 per cent discount was granted for guilty pleas and remorse, though the judge thought this remorse was more related to the consequences of the offending on Gregory’s family than the victims.

“Signing the cheque ‘Santa’ and ‘haha’ indicates that you thought you were being smart, taking the fruits of their labouring, honest work, from them.”

Judge Tuohy also offered a four-month discount to acknowledge the offending was driven by drug addiction.

“I think a major part of the rationale for the offending was to obtain money for drugs. What else could it be when you have stolen such large amounts [of goods] and have nothing else to show for it?”

Allan Pollard, chief executive of Trust House, which fell prey to Gregory, said it was terrible that such people put such pressure on retailers and those in the hospitality industry.

“Any kind of fraud is a despicable act,” he said.

“In a small place such as Masterton, “this kind of behaviour can have a massive impact on businesses”.

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