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Pensioner’s $48,000 theft for scammers

By TANYA KATTERNS – The Dominion Post
A carterton pensioner is facing jail time after stealing cash from a charitable organisation to feed Nigerian scammers.

David Patrick Mullany, 68, who was treasurer-secretary of the Wairarapa A&P Society, admits he siphoned money after being caught up in three Nigerian internet scams.

Mullany pleaded guilty in Masterton District Court yesterday to stealing $48,356 from the society over three years to pay people in London and Nigeria, believing he was in line to receive more than $46 million.

He has pleaded not guilty to one charge of using a document – a fuel card – to buy $1968 of fuel for his personal vehicle.

The A&P Society, which is a charitable organisation, runs an annual agricultural show and a mid-winter fair, and provides facilities for rent at the Clareville Showgrounds.

Mullany refused to answer questions outside the court yesterday to explain why he was taken in by the scammers.

The charges he has admitted, obtaining by deception and theft, carry a maximum seven years’ jail each. The court was told that during business hours he made international phone calls to contact people in London and Nigeria, and as the bills mounted he did not put in the telephone accounts for audit, in a bid to hide what he was doing.

He stole camp-ground fees and income from firewood sales as well as transferring money from the society’s account into his personal bank accounts.

When he was finally caught out – after society members discovered the hidden telephone and personal bank accounts – Mullany told police he was disgusted by what he had done.

He said he stole to send money overseas to people he was involved with as part of the Nigerian internet scams, and to cover mortgage repayments.

Society spokesman Ray Beale said the theft hit the already-struggling organisation hard. “There was a time there that we found ourselves plummeting from a very small profit to a huge loss and overdrafts to carry us through.”

Mullany was convicted and remanded for sentencing in September, after being told that a prison sentence was possible depending on how much money he was able to repay the society.

Nigerian internet scams often involve unsolicited correspondence claiming that a large amount of money is being held in Nigeria but could be freed if the recipient made an advance payment.

In April this year, a Christchurch grandmother, Jacqueline Louise de Berri, 48, was jailed for two years and four months for stealing $452,000 from her employer, Hertz.

She was in a financial crisis after being drawn into a Nigerian scam over five months last year.
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Scammers succeed by playing on people’s weaknesses, Victoria University senior lecturer in psychology Marc Wilson says.

“Someone gives $10, just starting small, but once that first investment is made, they are sucked in. We don’t like to feel like we’ve been screwed so we rationalise and send more money to give them more chances to give what they say they have for us or to help a person claimed to be in serious need. The hole is dug deeper.”

Mr Wilson says that no matter what police and other government agencies do to flush out scamming networks, they will always survive. The key is for people to stay smart.

“It comes back to that classic adage. If it seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is.”

August 3, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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