Michael O'brien

New Zealand Trust Operator Jailed For Pokie Fraud

For three years, from 2010 to 2013, a 58-year-old man named Michael O’Brien was able to slide under the radar of the department that regulates the gaming industry in New Zealand. O’Brien was the guy running the Bluegrass Trust, a Blenheim-based gambling machine community that he used to obtain millions of dollars in secret payments made illegally. He appeared in New Zealand’s High Court early in July and was convicted of five counts of obtaining by deception and sentenced to serve four and half years in jail.

Unfortunately there will always be unscrupulous individuals present in every industry, and the gambling entertainment market is no exception. It is important, whether you are playing pokies online or offline, that you ensure you are only patronizing legally licensed casinos offering their services to New Zealand players. You have the least chance of encountering a negative, fraudulent or questionable set of circumstances that way.

When O’Brien was the operator of the Bluegrass trust he was found to have deliberately hidden his involvement with the gambling machine community for the sole purpose of taking illegal payments. The Department later found that he was not suitable for the position he was holding with the trust as a result of an investigation in a trust he was involved with before 2010. The Crown Prosecutor on this case was Grant Burston who remarked on O’Brien’s intentions in starting the Bluegrass Trust. “The reason he set up Bluegrass and paid money to racing clubs was so he could continue to receive a third of those payments back to himself.”

The prosecutor was aggravated by the case because he claimed the racing clubs believed they had no choice but to pay O’Brien a third of their profits. That O’Brien had deceived them into believing that’s what was required of them to continue to receive contributions from pokie machine profits. The prosecutor was further aggravated by the fact that the money that was paid to O’Brien was directly depriving the racing clubs and community organizations of funding that they very much needed.

On the other end of the spectrum, Michael O’Brien’s lawyer, Bruce Squire QC, believes that the deception by O’Brien has been exaggerated. He maintains that the deception was limited and he believes it false to illustrate his client as very sophisticated or clever. At the end of the day, his defense attorney believes that he is neither informed nor astute in his attempts to deceive people and that depiction is a tactic by the prosecution.

The Justice in the matter, however, believes otherwise being quoted to have said O’Brien’s deceptions have struck at the core of the regulation of gambling bodies. With the investigation of another trust in O’Brien’s name before this one taken into account, Justice Dobson elaborated with details of the case. “You distanced yourself from the organization of the trust, you represented your father as acting in your place by forging his signature on relevant documents and sending emails purporting to come from him.” He continued to explain that he believed the defendant to have been “relatively sophisticated” and knowingly deceived the Department of Internal Affairs and “…those who were entitled to rely on the integrity of the applicants.”

Kevin Coffey, and Paul Max were also involved, receiving their own charges of obtaining by deception and will be sentenced later in July.

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