A businesswoman has pleaded guilty in the Rotorua District Court on May 4, 2015 to 16 charges of theft by a person in a special relationship.
A Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation resulted in criminal charges on Linnet Lewis in November 2013.
In 2004, Ms Lewis set up a business to assist people to manage their financial affairs. She acted as her clients’ agent or as a trustee for her clients’ trusts, thereby gaining complete control over her clients’ assets. She used that control to steal from her clients, in some instances using forged documents to commit the offences. Between 2005 and 2011, she stole approximately one million dollars.
SFO Chief Executive Julie Read said, “Ms Lewis has committed a serious breach of trust against her clients, many of whom were vulnerable, elderly people with reduced capacity to manage their own affairs. The SFO is committed to prosecuting such offences which have the capacity to damage New Zealand’s reputation as a safe place to invest and do business.”
Ms Lewis will reappear for sentencing on June 19, 2015.
Background to investigation
Linnet Lewis’ clients were predominantly retirees who she met during her time with a previous employer. She provided financial services including paying bills, arranging tax returns, managing property portfolios and client investments.
On June 7, 2012, the Rotorua Police referred an investigation into the affairs of Linnet Lewis and her associated entities to the Serious Fraud Office.
The SFO and the Financial Markets Authority worked together at the initial phase of the investigation and determined it was appropriate for the SFO to commence the criminal prosecution.
Source: Serious Fraud Office