28 Apr 2016

Man who used fake uni degrees jailed

1:42 pm on 28 April 2016

A man who bought university degrees and used them to get a job at the Financial Markets Authority has been jailed for four and a half years.

Benjamin Anthony Kiro has been jailed for four and a half years

Benjamin Anthony Kiro has been jailed for four and a half years Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Benjamin Anthony Kiro, 35, was sentenced today in the Auckland District Court. He had previously pleaded guilty to 22 charges including using false or forged documents.

Eleven of the charges related to theft by a person in a special relationship, after he conned almost $250,000 from people he befriended on social media.

Judge Gibson sentenced Kiro to four and a half years' imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of two years and three months.

In 2014, when asked for evidence of his academic qualifications as part of the recruiting process, Kiro turned to the internet.

He bought a false Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Commerce conjoint degree from an Australian university and a Masters of Business Administration degree from a university in Hong Kong.

After his application for one job was unsuccessful, he was recommended by the employer for a job at the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) - New Zealand's government agency responsible for financial regulation.

After an interview, he was offered a role, and worked there from the end of September 2014 until he resigned in January the following year.

The FMA said in a statement its processes were consistent with most private and public sector organisations, and it had undertaken an independent external review to ensure it would not be misled again.

"The credentials, integrity and quality of its staff are hugely important to the FMA and we are confident in the integrity of our current staff."

It had implemented recommendations which meant a candidate's qualifications and references were now screened, it said.

In another incident in August 2014, Kiro applied for a tenancy agreement and said his employer was Fonterra.

As proof he provided a Fonterra employment contract - a document he had created on his computer.

After the agreement with the property management company was signed, it checked with Fonterra who told them the documents were fake.

Victim impact statements

In a number of cases, Kiro conned acquaintances, some of whom he met on social media, out of thousands of dollars by convincing them to make investments with him.

Ahead of the sentence, Crown prosecutor Fiona Culliney told the court Kiro's breaches of trust and offending "spanned both his personal life and his professional life".

In sentencing today, Judge Brooke Gibson said Kiro took money not only from people who might be able to afford to lose it but from people who definitely could not.

"You also conned a substantial amount of money out of people you befriended or met on various social media sites and the vast majority of the money that you obtained by your various frauds has not been repaid."

Kiro stole $249,765 in total, of which he has repaid $62,000.

Judge Gibson read an impact statement from a victim who wrote Kiro was not the person she thought he was.

"He knew how hard I worked to save that money for my son and yet he had no guilty consciousness whatsoever. He did not care that I was a solo mother working as hard as I could to save whatever little amount I could to get ahead for my son and I."

Another impact statement read by the judge said:

"I was devastated by the loss of my $50,000 because, as a solo mum whose previous partner fathered my two boys, aged 11 and 14, died five years ago, [it] leaves me without any support to provide for my children in hard times."

Kiro's lawyer argued for a lesser sentence based on his previous clear record, and his expression of remorse.

Quoting a pre-sentence report, his lawyer said Kiro tried to take shortcuts rather than work for money, and that he was unable to stop using drug and alcohol.

"I think about what I've done all the time," he said in the report.

Judge Gibson said the community was entitled to a rest from people like Kiro.

"I think a reasonably lengthy period of imprisonment within the context of the limit imposed by the legislation is appropriate."

Kiro still owed more than $187,000 but Judge Gibson said it was unrealistic for him to pay it back, and instead ordered him to pay $75,000 to his victims.

Kiro is also facing charges in New South Wales for similar offending.