News: CV Fraud cases in New Zealand
CV fraud and lying about past accomplishments is increasing, so it’s more important than ever to undertake background checks of job applicants.
Your best defence against employing someone who has lied on their applicantion, is to have PVL crosscheck and verify their background.
New Zealand Cases
- Child-care worker hired with forged qualifications
- Nurse forged her practicing certificate whilst suspended
- Child sex offender used fake CV to teach in six schools
- School principal submitted forged reference
- Lawyer lied about 39 previous convictions
- Court of Enquiry report into hiring of Defence Force’s Chief Scientist
- CV liar and thief convicted – inadequate recruitment agency checks
- Fake CV - hired as an Accountant - steals $1.75 million
- Former Immigration CEO sentenced for CV fraud
- Hundreds of counterfeit NZ university degrees sold
- University employee lied about qualification
- Varnished Truths - have you been scammed?
- 30th conviction for claiming to be chiropractor
- New Zealand residents pay $20,000 for fake degrees
- Netball manager convicted of using fake degree
- Forger sentenced to four years imprisonment
- “Acupuncturist” hired over the Internet without verifying qualifications
- Police recruit found to have submitted fraudulent application
- Recruitment company recommends convicted fraudster for $75,000 job
New Zealand Articles
New Zealand Cases
Tracy Hibberd, a 35 year-old childcare employee at Clevedon Kidz Get Set 4 School Childcare Centre was today sentenced in the Auckland District Court after earlier being convicted of forging her child care qualifications.
She had cut and pasted and photocopied documents to make a diploma look genuine and was able to fool the New Zealand Teachers’ Council to the extent that it granted her provisional registration.
Hibberd was sentenced to eight months Home Detention.
Rosylin Radha Singh, a 40 year-old Auckland nurse, has been struck off the Nurse’s Register after being found guilty of forging her practising certificate.
Singh first appeared before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal in 2011 after she forged a prescription for a weight-loss drug for her own use. She pretended it was for an elderly resident at the rest home where she worked, but the Tribunal decided her excuse was "fanciful" and found her guilty of professional misconduct, suspending her from working as a nurse for six months from June 2011.
But within weeks Singh applied for a job as a school nurse. The school admitted that they did not check her qualifications and nursing registration before hiring her. Had they done so, her suspension would have been evident.
Then in November 2011 the school asked Singh to complete an application for ACC Health Provider status. On this form she altered her annual practising certificate expiry date from 31 March 2011 to 31 March 2012, to conceal her suspension. ACC contacted the Nursing Council, they contacted the school and the fraud became evident.
The Police charged Singh with altering a document with the intent to defraud. As she had no previous criminal convictions she was offered diversion. Then this month the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal cancelled Singh’s registration and ordered her to pay costs of $7000.
One final point to note about this case is that when Singh applied for the school nursing position she included a referee and contact cell phone number, The school contacted the referee who gave a positive reference, but during the Tribunal hearing the person named as the referee testified she had not agreed to be a referee, was never contacted by the school, and that she had never used the cell phone number included as her contact number on Singh’s application.
Clearly Singh or someone else impersonated the “referee”. If you are contacting a referee always call their published business landline number, never use an anonymous uncheckable cell phone number that the candidate has provided – you never know who you might be talking to. If you have any doubt about your ability to assess a job applicant, or their CV, or their referees, call us for advice.
Te Rito Henry Miki, a 41 year-old convicted child sex offender from 2004, was today sentenced in the Auckland District Court on seven charges of using false CV’s and a birth certificate to gain teaching positions at six New Zealand schools. He was also sentenced on four charges of breaching a supervision order.
Eight years earlier Miki had been convicted of four charges of indecent assault and two of common assault on a teenage boy and sentenced to two years imprisonment. Upon release he was subject to orders preventing him from having contact with children, but went on to train as a teacher.
Using false identities, stolen identities and false CV’s, Miki was able to gain employment as a teacher in six schools during the period 2007 to 2012, only being discovered by chance when a member of the public, familiar with his criminal history, recognised him driving a van load of school children.
A Ministerial inquiry into this matter is underway but we can reasonably speculate that not one of the schools undertook adequate background checks before hiring Mika. Had just one of them contacted previous employers, they would have uncovered his deception.
One school Principal became suspicious of Miki (presumably after employing him), but when confronted, Miki resigned, claiming he had a brain tumour
A second Principal, despite having been made aware of Mika's convictions and use of aliases, still employed him after Miki said the record belonged to his (non-existent) twin brother.
Miki also claimed to have two degrees from the University of Rochville in the United States. If Miki’s school employers had undertaken a simple New Zealand Google search of this institution, the first search result would have brought them here, to PVL’s web site, where as far back as 2007 we reported Rochville as being a fake “university” selling bogus “degrees” online.
According to the Ministry of Education, Miki was paid $159,634.54 for his work at the six schools. In a 2010 report, before Miki was discovered teaching, a Psychologist describe him as a psychopath and sexual deviant who was likely to commit further sexual offences against male children or adolescents.
Miki, who has an extensive criminal record with 42 convictions over a 23 year period in New Zealand and Australia, was sentenced to four years and six weeks imprisonment.
If you work in the education sector and employ teachers call us now for immediate advice and assistance in avoiding hiring unqualified or dangerous staff. PVL’s founder has been undertaking pre employment background screening in the New Zealand public and private sector continuously for the last 16 years.
Maria Gladys Josephine Haronga Lewis, a 57 year-old Hawked Bay School Principal with more than 30 years teaching experience was today found guilty of fabricating a job reference when she applied for the position of Principal at Riverslea School, a position she had previously been acting in for a short time.
The forged reference was uncovered when the referee was contacted and said he had not written the testimonial. Haronga Lewis was immediately dismissed and the matter referred to the Police.
After pleading guilty to using a document to obtain a pecuniary advantage Haronga Lewis was convicted and discharged, with the Judge noting she could face deregistration when she appeared before the Teachers Council. The Judge added that the reference she had compiled was a "fulsome" report and would have taken time to prepare.
This is a good example of an employer practicing “due diligence” in the hiring process and not simply accepting at face value, what a job applicant submits.
When you are processing applications for employment always verify the candidate’s background and confirm that documents submitted are authentic. If you need help, contact us.
Shadrach Darren Mitchell, a 38 year-old Wellington employment lawyer has been struck-off as a barrister and solicitor by the Court of Appeal after failing to declare an extensive criminal history and three terms of imprisonment.
When Mitchell applied for admission to the Bar in 2001 he declared he had no criminal convictions, and made a similar claim when he began working for his current employer two years later.
Following a tip-off in July 2008, the Law Society requested a copy of his criminal record from the Police. It was only then his employer and the Society learned he had amassed 39 convictions during the period 1989 -1994.
His offending included drug possession, burglary, theft, assault, intentional damage (13 charges), disorderly behaviour, breaching bail, obstructing Police, failure to attend Periodic Detention, four drink-driving convictions, driving whilst disqualified and giving false details to the Police. In 1991 he served five months in prison.
When his employer confronted him, he assured them he had not been to prison and he continued to hide his past at meetings with the Law Society by denying he was the person in question. Finally, in August 2008, he admitted the truth.
If Mitchell's employer, or the Law Society, had requested even the most cursory of background enquiries – a criminal records check – they would have immediately discovered his past. Instead, the Law Society repeatedly issued practising certificates to him in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
When employing an apparently skilled person such as a solicitor or barrister or medical professional, it is reckless to assume their personal backgrounds are without blemish simply because of their professional training. Always request a background check for any person you are thinking of employing.
This man’s employer undoubtedly wishes they had.
The Court of Enquiry report into the hiring of Stephen Wilce was released today.
Wilce resigned last month as Chief Scientist for the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) following the screening of a TV3 investigation which claimed the Englishman had fabricated his CV.
Wilce was appointed Chief Scientist and Director of New Zealand's Defence Technology Agency five years ago. His duties included representing New Zealand's interests on an international committee of senior defence scientists from the USA, UK, Canada and Australia.
In the TV3 programme, Wilce was shown telling a reporter (posing as a recruitment consultant) that he had a distinguished combat career as a decorated Royal Marine (no record of him ever having been a Marine exists), that he had worked for MI5 and MI6, that he helped develop the guidance system for the Polaris missile system (this was actually developed in the USA more than 50 years ago), and that from 1982-88 he was a member of the British Olympic bobsleigh team (no one from the team or the British Bobsleigh Association has ever heard of him).
The Court of Enquiry heard witnesses testify Wilce had claimed to have served in the Falklands war, Northern Ireland, the Gulf war; been awarded the DSO and Military Cross and Bar; captained the Royal Navy swimming team, played for a Welsh rugby team against the All Blacks; had an honorary PhD in astronomy from Cambridge University; played guitar on the British folk circuit, and was on an IRA death list.
NZDF had engaged recruitment company Momentum Consulting to find a suitable candidate for the position and the Court of Enquiry found the background screening checks carried out by Momentum did not satisfy the higher standard of thoroughness required by its contract (Momentum had charged NZDF $25,000).
In particular, the reference checking of Wilce’s past employers was so inadequate it was never discovered that he had concealed previous employment with a company that had dismissed him for poor performance, or that he had repeatedly exaggerated his responsibilities and accomplishments. For example, his CV stated he worked for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and implied he was involved in the America’s Cup defence, when in reality he was responsible for the Squadron’s bar and restaurant facilities.
Momentum Consulting dispute they were responsible for reference checking.
An ever present issue for employment agencies is that it is not in their interests to discover anything negative in the background of a candidate who could well secure their commission for a successful placement – it is an inherent conflict of interest (see here for a life-threatening example).
Relying on a recruitment company to undertake adequate background checks on a candidate is akin to relying on a real estate agent to write a report on the structural integrity of the house you are thinking of buying.
Recruitment companies are good at locating and short listing candidates, but employment consultants are not trained in assessing integrity or undertaking background enquiries, they simply do not have the necessary investigative or interviewing skills to elicit useful meaningful information and uncover inconsistencies.
Fortunately, more recruitment companies are turning to specialist independent pre employment screening companies to undertake this work, so both they and their client can be assured the enquiries have been independently and professionally carried out.
Filipino-born Julia Jose was sentenced in Wellington today to seven months' home detention, 200 hours' community service and ordered to pay full reparation after being convicted of 21 charges of defrauding her employer, the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce, of $54,000.
Jose was recommended for the position of Finance Manager in May 2008 by Momentum Consulting. She told them she had an MBA and several other degrees, however, her performance was so poor that after seven months of employment the Chamber of Commerce contacted the recruitment agency complaining that Jose did not even have a rudimentary understanding of accounting.
It only then came to light Jose did not have the qualifications she claimed. She subsequently resigned but days afterwards it was discovered she had stolen $54,000.
Considerable public interest in this case has been generated by the fact that the recruitment company that recommended Jose for the position is the same company responsible for having earlier facilitated Stephen Wilce's appointment to the position of Chief Scientist with the Defence Force.
Momentum issued a statement saying Jose’s qualification checks took an exceedingly long time to complete, but that they were completed once the Chamber of Commerce raised concerns.
Once again this case highlights the inherent conflict of interest that recruitment companies have in undertaking adequate background screening of job applicants for their clients. Recruitment agencies are paid a commission for a successful placement (as they were in placing both Jose and Stephen Wilce - see story above), so it can be tempting to take shortcuts with background checks and reference interviews.
Only an independent background screening company, free of all conflicts of interest, can be relied upon to properly verify a job applicant’s background.
And we have difficulty understanding why it took seven months to check foreign qualifications; it should be more like seven days.
Trevor Esera, a 33 year-old IT manager was today sentenced for using a false CV to secure a position as an Accountant at Rinnai New Zealand Ltd, and for subsequently stealing $1.75 million from the company.
Esera was employed by the gas appliance manufacturer in 2001 as an Accountant by falsely claimed to have Bachelor of Business Studies from Massey University. His claimed qualification was never verified.
He was later promoted to IT manager and appointed a member of Rinnai’s executive leadership team but all the while was defrauding his employer.
Over a six year period he created 350 fake invoices from non-existent suppliers - Intergra Images and Software Plus. By this means Esera succeeded in having $1,758,193 paid into bank accounts controlled by him and his wife.
Esera was caught only after he had left the company and his successor stumbled across the false invoicing system.
He was also convicted of mortgage fraud. He used false documents to over-state his financial situation and obtain a mortgage of $459,000. He forged the signature on an employer's statement of his salary – "which substantially overstated his income" – and created fake payslips and internet banking printouts.
Esera was sentenced to 3 years and 10 months imprisonment.
It is unwise to accept a CV without verifying its content. If a job applicant claims to have a degree it is essential to confirm its authenticity. Had Rinnai done this it would have discovered Esera’s lies and never employed him, and not have lost $1.75 million. Contact us for further information about verifying CV’s.
Mary-Anne Thompson, the former Head of the New Zealand Immigration Service who last month pleaded guilty to CV fraud was today fined $10,000 and ordered to perform 100 hours community work.
Thompson was first charged in 2008 with three counts of using a document for pecuniary advantage. The charges related to CV fraud allegedly committed in 1989, 1998 and 2002 when she used a false CV to secure senior Government positions by claiming to have a PhD from the London School of Economics (LSE).
For almost two years, throughout successive Court appearances, Thompson steadfastly claimed she was not guilty, but in a plea bargain last month that saw the charges reduced to one and a sentencing indication by the Judge, Thompson finally admitted her guilt.
In an earlier depositions hearing, an official from the LSE responsible for administering its qualifications testified Thompson had enrolled in the mid 1980’s for a Masters degree but that she had never been listed as having passed anything during the relevant period, never sat the required oral examination, and that no record of a thesis existed in the university’s catalogues. A key page in her university file - which said she applied for a Masters degree, rather than a Doctorate - had the words "Treat as abandoned 21 Sept 99", written across it.
Before her appointment as Head of the Immigration Service, Thompson had been acting Head of the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet (PM&C) and the then Prime Minister had publicly stated she always understood Thompson to have had a Doctorate qualification.
The Auditor-General was asked by the Government to investigate the matter and he released his report in June 2009. In it he said uncertainty about Thompson’s claim to have a PhD first arose in April 2004 when she was being considered for the position of Head of the Prime Ministers Department - uncertainty that only arose by chance, following a tip-off made to the recruitment agency processing the applications.
She was asked to provide proof of her PhD but instead withdrew her application for the PM&C position. The State Services Commissioner then asked Thompson if she had a Doctorate degree, she said yes and the Commissioner accepted her word without independent verification.
Shortly afterwards the Commissioner retired. He failed to alert his successor to the issue, so that when Thompson applied for the Immigration CEO position the following month, for which she was subsequently appointed, there was no record of concern about her integrity. It was also noteworthy that when Thompson applied for the Immigration position, her CV no longer made any reference to her claiming to have a PhD.
The Auditor-General’s report also criticised Thompson’s Immigration appointment because her application was accepted after the closing date, she was not subject to an initial assessment interview like other applicants, she was offered the position before any reference checks had been completed and there was no documentation on the selection panel’s assessment of the applicants, nor indeed a copy of Thompson’s application.
Earlier, in October 2008, the State Services Commission (SSC) released its findings into allegations that Thompson facilitated the entry to New Zealand of family members whilst Head of Immigration.
The SSC found:
“Thompson was involved with six immigration-related procedures relating to members of her family in 2004 and 2005. Although the investigation finds no evidence that Ms Thompson's family members were seeking preferential treatment, the report is clear that her involvement resulted in them receiving personal benefits that they would not have normally received if she had not held her position in the Department.
Thompson’s behaviour was wholly inappropriate on two counts. First, it consistently breached the Department’s clearly-stated requirements for staff to disclose potential personal conflicts to their manager before taking any action. Secondly, the long-standing expectation of State servants, outlined most recently in the Code of Conduct for the State Services, is that they are trustworthy. This includes not acting in a way that may improperly benefit our family or friends or groups in which we have a personal interest".
Writer Finlay Macdonald has published an article on the Thompson case and the wider issue of CV fraud. view article»
Three Chinese nationals appeared today in the Manukau District Court charged with manufacturing and selling forged degrees, diplomas and academic records from most New Zealand universities.
Police believe that the production of the high-quality false documents may have been occurring over a period of 2 - 3 years, with more than 100 sets of documents created and sold for thousands of dollars each.
In a statement, the Police said their investigation disclosed a market existed in New Zealand for the purchase of forged academic qualifications, false Immigration letters, certificates of attainment letters and sample assignments.
Employers considering hiring university graduates can verify that their candidates have actually been awarded a genuine degree by contacting a pre employment screening company.
Karen Hartshorn, a science writer at the University of Otago in Dunedin has left the university following an anonymous tip-off to the "Otago Daily Times" newspaper that she did not have the Doctorate she claimed to have.
Hartshorn was employed to write articles for newspapers and magazines about the work undertaken by the University. She apparently enrolled for a PhD in Geology at Cambridge University in England, but never graduated.
Nonetheless she subsequently began claiming to have a PhD in Geology from Cambridge University, and referred to herself as ‘Dr Hartshorn” during interviews as far back at 2½ years ago. The University of Otago’s Staff Directories also recorded Hartshorn as have a doctorate.
Hartshorn, who was born in England, was first employed in Dunedin in 2006 when she was appointed Director of the New Zealand International Science Festival. In 2008 she was elected President of the Science Communicators Association of New Zealand and was later appointed Director of Translational Research at the National Centre for Lifecourse Research, in Dunedin.
Fraud on a massive scale has been in the headlines, from Michael Swann's $17 million efforts at the Otago District Health Board, to US financier Bernard Madoff's Ponzi-scheme billions But fraud is often much more everyday than that, as Kim Dungey and Shane Gilchrist report. View article>>
James Michael Dawson, also known as Michael Dawson, was convicted and fined $4200 in Nelson for falsely claiming to be a qualified and registered chiropractor. The charges were brought by the Ministry of Health who secured its first conviction against Dawson in 1999. Today’s court appearance was his 30th conviction for claiming to be a chiropractor.
A total of 9,612 people from 131 countries spent more than NZ$10 million buying 10,815 fake degrees and certificates from a United States “degree mill” in Washington State.
Degrees and diplomas sold by such companies are frequently used for fraudulent purposes, such as obtaining employment and promotions.
Ten people from New Zealand spent more than $20,400 buying qualifications from the company, whose owners were recently sentenced to three years imprisonment. Two of the New Zealand purchasers, (one bought a BA, the other a PhD), are a Director and Shareholder respectively of an employment recruitment company in Auckland.
The degree-selling business used the names of 77 legitimate academic faculties (including one New Zealand institution) and used the names of 121 unrecognised or non-existent institutions in their sale of fraudulent academic qualifications. Some were of their own invention (“St. Regis University”), while others were the names of diploma mills operated by their competitors (“University Francophone Robert de Sorbon”), for example.
An obvious lack of concern for the public’s safety was evident in that almost one-third of the “degrees” were issued in fields such as Healthcare, Engineering, and Public Safety.
Twenty-nine year-old Hayden Mark Coulton was convicted in the Palmerston North District Court last month of using a fake degree for pecuniary advantage. Coulton, who had studied at Massey University, but never graduated, claimed in his CV to have a Bachelor of Sports Studies degree from Massey.
He submitted the false CV when he applied for a job with Western Netball and was subsequently appointed its Regional Manager in April 2007. When a news story later appeared in the local media about Hayden Coulton’s appointment, which included reference to his degree, a Massey University official decided to verify Coulton’s qualification and discovered that he had never graduated. The University laid a complaint with the Police.
Coulton, who suddenly quit his job when confronted, initially denied the charge, later pled guilty, was fined $750 and applied for permanent name suppression. The application was declined but he appealed to the High Court before eventually abandoning his quest to keep his name suppressed. It emerged Coulton had been planning to join the Police and was due to be vetted when his offending came to light.
Rebecca Katsz Li, a 35 year-old Auckland Company Director who forged university qualifications that were almost indistinguishable from genuine degrees, has been sentenced to four years imprisonment.
Li was convicted of 49 charges of forging documents that included university degrees, birth certificates, immigration permits, tax invoices, academic records and also Australian driver licences. It was claimed Li, who operated a design and advertising company from her Grey Lynn home, used sophisticated computer programmes and printing equipment to create high-quality forgeries which she sold for as much as $5,000 each. When her premises were searched a number of fraudulently made seals and stamps for various New Zealand universities were also discovered. It was alleged the offending took place over a seven year period.
The sentencing Judge order that Li serve a minimum two years imprisonment before being eligible for parole, rather than the traditional one third of her sentence, as it would not otherwise be enough to punish, denounce and deter her offending.
The Police believe numerous fake qualifications are still in circulation and being used to secure jobs, but how many was anyone's guess. Auckland University’s Registrar said the mass production of fraudulent degrees and other university certificates was "a major corrosion" of the university’s credibility and he urged would-be employers to verify all qualifications.
An Austrian working as an acupuncturist at the “Raphael Healthy Living Centre” in Whakatane was suspended after he was unable to confirm his claimed qualifications. Walter Sommeregger, who was known overseas as Professor Doctor David Schweitzer, was also accused by the International Albert Schweitzer Association of falsely claiming to be related to Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel Peace prize winner.
Sommeregger also claimed that in 1992 the American Biographical Institute (ABI) had awarded him its “Man of the year” prize for services to complementary medicine and that the International Biographical Centre has awarded him its “World Intellectual Award” in 1993. In truth, the ABI is a mail order publisher that generates its revenue from the sale of non-existent certificates and awards for up to US$800 each.
Shimrit Attoun, the owner of the “Raphael Healthy Living Centre”, and the person who hired Sommeregger over the Internet and brought him to New Zealand without verifying his qualifications, maintained that the Immigration Service should have been responsible for confirming Sommeregger’s background.
A UK Police recruit, brought to New Zealand under a programme by New Zealand Police to make up a staffing shortfall, resigned and returned to England after it was discovered he had falsified his application. The recruit was already the subject of disciplinary proceedings when the falsification in his application to join the New Zealand Police was discovered.
The Thames-Coromandel District Council engaged international recruitment firm TMP Hudson to find it a suitable person for the position of Information Service’s Manager, responsible for managing the Council’s IT department. Hudson identified Annette Hema, who claimed to have a Masters degree in Computing, as a qualified applicant and she was subsequently appointed by the Council to the position, which attracted an annual salary $75,000-$85,000.
She worked for the Council for six weeks before the recruitment company belatedly reported that Hema (which was not her real name) had been convicted of fraud in Auckland, several months earlier. During the period she was employed by the Council it had paid her $10,000 in wages. TMP Hudson subsequently refunded to the Council, the $13,900 fee it had charged for finding and recommending Hema for the position. The Council never got the chance to speak to Hema about the matter before she disappeared.
New Zealand Articles
More than 150 international students gained fraudulent qualifications in less than a year from a failed school in Auckland.
Almost half were "ghost" students, who paid for qualifications but never attended classes. Read article>>
In the situations vacant section of the Mandarin Pages, hope is for sale.
Degrees that usually take three years to obtain are being offered for around $12,000. Read article»