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Oamaru Police are keen to talk with anyone in New Zealand who may have become the victim of an alleged fraudster who is believed to have swindled people out of a total of millions of dollars over the past two decades.
James Lindon Graham aged 67 appeared in the Oamaru District Court in mid-August to face charges of obtaining by deception, using a document for pecuniary advantage and money laundering. He was remanded until the 30 September.
He was arrested at Auckland Airport at the end of July as he was leaving the country.
Detective Sergeant Mike Ryder of Oamaru said his arrest came following a number of complaints from people who had had dealings with Mr Graham, who also goes by the name of Lin Graham.
"What we believe we are looking at is long-term fraud that has seen many people give away sums of money in the hope of large financial reward," he said.
"We know of people in North Otago, Dunedin, Central Otago, Christchurch, the West Coast and overseas who have contributed to these so-called investments, which we believe have been going on for many years and run to millions of dollars," Detective Ryder said.
The fraud is believed to be the kind known as `advance fee fraud', in which the perpetrator claims to have access to vast sums of money in foreign bank accounts.
The perpetrator indicates that they need help to pay various expenses so that the money can be released.
In return for money provided to cover those costs, the `investor' is promised a huge return on their money, often 100% or more.
Once an investor has paid money new expenses arise, requiring further investment. These expenses can be quite imaginative but may include bank fees, customs charges, international terrorism clearance charges, taxes and many more.
If the fraudster becomes aware that police are investigating it is common for them to tell victims that police involvement will lead to the money being lost with no hope of it being recovered.
"Often people are cautious about contacting police because of their embarrassment at having been taken in. The fraudster will always work to reassure people that a payout is only days away and many people have given so much money that they have to believe there is some chance of getting it back," Detective Sergeant Ryder said.
As has been the case in this alleged fraud, the perpetrator often seeks a large investor who asks others to contribute. Much of the liaison is left to that person, said Detective Sergeant Ryder.
"We are really keen to hear from anyone who has had dealings with Mr Graham or given him money over recent years, or as far back as the mid-1990s."
People with information or who have had dealings with Mr Graham should contact Detective Sergeant Mike Ryder via Oamaru Police Station on (03) 433-1400.