8 Apr 2009

Former accountant admits $3.3m fraud

10:29 pm on 8 April 2009

A former accountant from Hawke's Bay has pleaded guilty eight charges of fraud totalling $3.3 million.

Warren Pickett, 63, a former Justice of the Peace and marriage celebrant, pleaded guilty in Napier District Court on Wednesday to charges under the Crimes and Securities Acts.

Pickett admitted misappropriating investors' funds over a period of 20 years.

In August last year, two companies in which Pickett was the sole director and principal shareholder went into voluntary liquidation.

At the time, Waipawa Holdings and Waipawa Finance owed more than $18 million to 220 clients.

Court documents show Pickett wrote to clients in March 2008 making false statements about the financial position of Waipawa Holdings and the safety of the investments.

Pickett contacted the Serious Fraud Office and admitted using investors' money for his own use. Court documents show Pickett used their money to pay for properties, vehicles, home renovations and life insurance.

Judge Bridget McIntosh told the court on Wednesday the offending was of a very serious nature.

She declined the Pickett's application for bail and remanded him in custody for sentencing at the end of May.