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A Balclutha livestock agent has been sentenced to 12 months home detention on charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

John Francis Williams (40) was sentenced today in the Dunedin High Court having pleaded guilty to two representative charges of ‘False accounting’, one representative charge of ‘Obtaining by deception’ and one charge of ‘Causing loss by deception’.

At the time of his offending Mr Williams was employed as an agent by Rural Livestock Limited, the largest privately-owned livestock and station company in the South Island.

Mr Williams defrauded his employer as well as his clients by submitting false sale notes related to livestock sales and leasing agreements. At times he presented himself as the vendor of animals he didn’t own, sold stock which did not exist, or created a fictitious entity. This caused Rural Livestock to incorrectly invoice or credit farmers who knew nothing of the transactions or had relied on Mr Williams’ handshake agreement.

When errors were detected, Mr Williams used further false sale notes or gaps in the livestock transport, identification, tracing and management systems to disguise his offending. As a result, Rural Livestock and farmers were left with conflicting records in relation to the stock and losses far greater than the benefit Mr Williams secured for himself.

Rural Livestock suffered approximately $1.3 million in losses as the direct result of Mr Williams’ offending and through compensating affected farmers. Mr Williams has agreed to make partial reparation to Rural Livestock.

The Director of the SFO, Julie Read, said, “Mr Williams took advantage of the livestock industry’s traditional relationship-based trading practises for his own gain. By exploiting vulnerabilities in the system, he abused the trust placed in him by his employer and the farmers he worked with.”