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Fraudster ordered to pay back thousands

A young man who defrauded multiple people of more than $45,000 with fake gardening schemes and car purchases has avoided prison but must pay back the majority of what he owes.

Appearing in Masterton District Court this week was 22-year-old Shane Sutton, who had pleaded guilty to a stack of charges for obtaining by deception [three for an amount under $500, one for an amount between $500 and $1000 and 12 for an amount over $1000], and one charge of failing to answer bail.

He had no prior convictions.

Defence counsel Ian Hard said the offending took place at a time when Sutton was incentivised by drugs and bad company and that he was now extremely remorseful.

“It was driven by an MDMA addiction and a poor
choice of friends,” Hard said.

“He’s determined to do something about both of those and is supported by his family today.

“He’s determined to start working again and to remain drug-free and not go back to those associates that led him astray.”

Sutton had been in custody since the beginning of August, and Hard said he had been waiting “a significant amount of time” for sentencing.

His mother, grandmother, and sponsor were all present to support him in court.

Judge Katie Elkin said Sutton ran two different fraudulent schemes between November last year and July this year.

She said the first was to offer services as a landscape gardener, where he provided a quote for the work and took the deposit without carrying out the labour.

“In five cases, the work wasn’t even started, and in one, you started but didn’t finish it.”

Sutton’s second business venture involved posing as a buyer for vehicles listed on Facebook Marketplace, showing the seller a fake bank deposit screenshot, and then taking the goods.

Items Sutton obtained through this scam included a quad bike valued at $2500, a dirt bike valued at $1600, a Toyota ute valued at $5700, a mower valued at $3500, a jet ski and trailer valued at $3000, a motorbike valued at $4000, and two cars together valued at over $7500. The total amount taken from all 13 victims came to just over $45,000.

The most significant scam was valued at $15,000 and involved obtaining a vehicle from Auto Imports and abstaining from making loan repayments before swapping it with another car.

Hard questioned the feasibility of Sutton paying back the total reparation costs.

“He’s very willing, but is it realistic?” Hard asked.

“I’m wondering how realistic it is, he’s willing to make the best contribution he can.”

Elkin responded that while it might take a long time for Sutton to pay his victims back, it was worth considering their hardship too.

“A lot of these people are pensioners, who don’t have much money,” Elkin said.

“My concern here is, these are all individuals like you who have been ripped off, who would not see back what you ripped off from them.”

Referencing the large number of victim impact statements, Elkin said they made for sobering reading.

“Several of them gave you their savings, and even more significant is the psychological impact,” Elkin said.

“Pretty much all of the victims have been left feeling angry, ripped off and taken advantage of. Their faith in people has been shaken, and they now find it difficult to trust. It has changed the way that they see life.”

She said none of the property had been returned.

“This was a sophisticated scheme, it required research and planning.”

Acknowledging Sutton’s addiction, Elkin then said it was clear that his actions had been fuelled by addiction issues.

“You’ve shown genuine remorse, I’ve seen that in your letter and in your behaviour,” Elkin said. “You have previous good character with no previous convictions.”

Taking this into account with Sutton’s guilty plea, Elkin sentenced him to three and a half months of home detention.

During this time, he was told he cannot possess alcohol or drugs that have not been prescribed, or use a non-approved electronic device capable of going online, and that he has to continue with counselling programmes.

The reparation cost of $15,000 was slashed to $5000, but all others remained the same.

“There is a high level of reparations sought to a large number of people, some who have had to take out loans to cope with the fact they lost that money,” Elkin said.

“I realise you have a limited ability to pay it at the moment, but you’re young with no dependents, and you can make a payment plan.”

Elkin said she didn’t expect to see him appear in court again.

“Definitely not,” Sutton replied.

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