A personable, 65-year-old conwoman dubbed "the queen of greed" duped 10 people out of more than $2 million before losing the money to a classic Nigerian scam.
Among her victims was a lawyer, formerly a senior member of a well-known Auckland practice, who lost $1.2 million.
The woman, Patricia Lenine Mabel Walsh, of Howick, was found guilty in the Auckland District Court yesterday on 47 counts relating to the Nigerian fraud and a further three fraud charges over the purchase of a $1.8 million home at Whitford.
A cousin, 78-year-old Elva Mary Medhurst, also of Howick, faced two charges of misappropriation but died partway through the trial.
The jury heard that the 10 people who lost just over $2 million also put money into a failed upmarket apartment project initiated by Walsh.
She and her fellow investors were conned out of their money by American fraudster Greg Dutcher, who offered to provide finance for the project - but they had to pay fees and expenses upfront.
When Walsh approached the investors with a rescue package, they threw good money after bad.
The lawyer, whose name was suppressed, lost $400,000 on the building project and $1.2 million trying to recoup his loss. A 90-year-old woman lost $337,000 in the Nigerian scam.
Serious Fraud Office lawyer David Jones said Walsh concealed the Nigerian connection when discussing the rescue package with the other investors.
She told them a Middle East benefactor was setting up a trust to help people who had fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. She was the trust's New Zealand representative and the funds would be under her control to dispense to people who fitted the criteria.
As in the Dutcher fraud, the investors were told that before the rescue money could be transferred to New Zealand, they had to pay set-up costs, taxes, bank fees and legal costs.
The Crown said that Walsh, who was expecting US$28 million, was telling the victims what the Nigerians were telling her. But when asked, she denied any Nigerian connection. Inevitably, the US$28 million never arrived.