A Havelock North man did a "very good job" of befriending people from whom he took $243,000 to invest on international stock markets eight years ago, only to be convicted in court for failing to account to them.
Peter Jonatahn Rens, 73, first met some of his victims at the Hawke's Bay Gliding club in 2004 and struck up friendships with them while discussing his online investing work after a day's gliding.
In 2004, the first person gave him $5000 to invest and by the next year 12 people had given him sums ranging from $5000 to $105,000. Combined, their funds totalled $243,000, and they had not seen a "penny" of it since.
Rens was convicted on 12 counts of theft by a person in a special relationship at the conclusion of a four-day jury trial at the Napier District Court yesterday.
His first victim, flying instructor James Foreman, said he was disappointed to lose the money and how Rens had "sucked us in".
"He did a very good job of befriending us and showing interest in the gliding club then running off with your money, basically.
"I got on pretty well with him for a while. He seemed to be interested in the gliding and he seemed to be enjoying it. He did a very good job of conning us ... I certainly started to trust him and got on quite well with him."
During the trial, the court heard how a company had been registered in Dominica in the Caribbean to take advantage of relaxed rules regarding director and secretary appointments. A bank account was set up in Nevis in the Caribbean and lawyers and accountants based in Uruguay were implicated.
Multiple agencies and banks were said to have been involved in money transfers.
Attempts were made by some of the investors to withdraw their money but it was to no avail.
"It was frustrating trying to deal with him and putting up with all the bloody variety of different excuses and shit that he always handed us," Mr Foreman said.
"I'm pleased that he's been convicted, because I think he deserves to be accountable for what he's put everyone through. I hope he gets jail because I don't think any other sentence will affect him that much."
Mr Foreman was aware when he invested the money it was a high-risk venture. He suggested others who might find themselves in a similar situation seek a second opinion.
"Basically when I invested money I did realise it was high risk and I said to myself, and to others that showed interest in it, it's not the sort of thing you put in for your next mortgage payment. If anything can be learnt from it - be careful who you invest your money with."
During the trial the officer in charge of the case, Detective Blair Macdonald, described his dealings with Rens in two police interviews as "frustrating".
Yesterday Mr Macdonald told Hawke's Bay Today it was evident to him during the investigation Rens "belligerently held on to his explanations for what happened to the money" and he struggled to receive a straight answer when questioned.
He had never before seen a case with the proposed complexity of the investment structure, involving multiple banks and jurisdictions.
He initially thought Rens had simply lost the money in bad trades but didn't have the courage to admit it. In his dealings with him, Rens had never shown any remorse.
"He had a real arrogance that he couldn't believe that these people were making these complaints ... and if they left him alone it would just work out."
Rens maintained throughout the trial that he had tried to find the investors' money but didn't know where it was located.
The fact he had invested on the group's behalf was not in dispute, but the Crown successfully proved he deliberately failed to account to them.
He was released on bail until his sentencing in February.