1 Jul 2016

Prison 'only appropriate sentence' for fraudster

8:26 pm on 1 July 2016

The case of Yvonne Cash who preyed on small business owners, promising to invest in their companies, is a catalogue of broken promises.

Yvonne Cash was been accused of defrauding vulnerable people at her sentencing at the Auckland District Court.

Yvonne Cash, centre, at her sentencing at the Auckland District Court. Photo: RNZ / Edward Gay

Cash was sentenced to 13 months in prison for fraud for the third time in the Auckland District Court today after promises of reparation to her victims came to nothing.

She had approached small businesses, offering to invest money.

But in reality, there were no Australian accounts, no money, and the company received nothing.

Judge Anne Kiernan had postponed the sentencing last month to allow Cash to make reparations after she told the court she had a friend in Australia who was willing to help, but the funds never arrived.

But like Cash's previous promises, that came to nothing, with no sign of the money today.

Cash used business investment websites to track down business owners to offer investment.

One software company was promised $1.8 million, but Cash told the owner the money was tied up in Australian accounts and they had to make a contribution to have the money released.

Judge Kiernan said Cash, who used aliases, asked for $11,500 to free up the money.

"He says it has been life altering, he really thought the investment was legitimate. He had to shut the company down to minimal running costs, he had to lay-off staff as a result of the drop in cash-flow," Judge Kiernan said, reading victim impact statements.

Cash had offered another company, a garlic grower, $50,000. She told the owner the money was tied up in an Australian account.

Judge Kiernan said the man paid her $1500 to have the funds released but the investment never went ahead.

"He says it affected his personal and work life. He was desperate for the investment to work and when it all fell through, it was absolutely devastating."

Cash even duped her landlord, initially promising to buy an Ōrewa cafe for her to run, and then a bed and breakfast in Queensland.

The court heard how she used forged letters from the Australian Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice to make it appear she had the funds, but the sale never went through.

"Obviously, there was financial stress. They had a house almost packed, ready to go to Australia. It was a very difficult time which impacted on her [the landlord's] health," the judge said.

Cash's lawyer Laurence Herbke said his client still hoped to make the payments.

"She has in good faith attempted to make the reparation."

But Judge Kiernan cut in: "I can't accept, Mr Herbke, it's in good faith because there's absolutely no evidence before me that the reparation is viable, [or] forthcoming."

The court was told Cash had been jailed in Australia for fraud-related offending and was still paying over $8000 in reparations for offences in New Zealand.

She made further promises of reparation to her latest victims during Restorative Justice meetings, saying she was about to receive a $2m divorce settlement.

But Crown prosecutor Jeff Simpson said those promises were never met.

"It appears to the Crown that the Restorative Justice process has been manipulated in order to reach a positive outcome to achieve a credit at sentence. And that, Your Honour, puts the victims in a very vulnerable position because having been misled once, they'll be misled again."

In sentencing, Judge Kiernan referred to Cash's apology to the victims and quoted from a statement she gave to a probation officer, saying: "I've had many sleepless nights and it's better that it's over. I'm sorry for what I've done. I have no intentions of crossing that line again".

But the judge said it was hard not to view that statement without cynicism.

"If it is true, time will tell, of course. Perhaps this may be the last time you'll appear in court for fraudulent offending. But given your history, I would have to say that would be a huge change in behaviour."

The judge did take time off Cash's sentence for her early guilty pleas and taking part in the Restorative Justice conference.

With those discounts, Cash was eligible for a sentence of home detention, but Judge Kiernan said that would not be appropriate.

"You are a long-time fraudster. Prison is the only appropriate sentence."

Cash will also face conditions on her release from prison.