Three men await verdict on Pokie machine fraud

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Serious Fraud Office

Auckland, June 15, 2017

Verdicts were handed down in the trial of three people charged with offences in relation to a multi-million-dollar gaming machine fraud in the Wellington High Court today.

The defendants; Michael Joseph O’Brien (58) of Blenheim, Paul Anthony Max (60) of Nelson and Kevin Coffey (57) of Hastings, faced Crimes Act charges of ‘Obtaining by deception.’

Michael O’Brien has been found guilty of five charges, Paul Max has been found guilty of three charges and the remaining defendant has been found guilty of one charge and not guilty of one other.

The manipulation of gambling licenses and grants was detected during Operation Chestnut, a joint investigation involving the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (OFCANZ), and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Significant Case

The investigation was a significant case in New Zealand for the ‘Class 4’ gambling sector, which is made up of high-turnover gambling including gaming machines in pubs and clubs.

SFO Chief Executive Julie Read said, “Funding from pokie machines provides millions of dollars of community funding for sport, health, education and other activities every year. Operation Chestnut has been effective in enabling the DIA to pinpoint areas where compliance can be lifted in the sector so that pokie machine benefits can continue without the risk of manipulation or potential criminal activity.”

The defendants were remanded in custody by Justice Dobson to next appear for sentencing on July 13, 2017.

A Pokies 101 guide is available at this link: http://www.dia.govt.nz/Gambling it describes how the Class 4 gambling sector in New Zealand operates.

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