Court hears that much of teacher’s life savings did not go on property purchases

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A teacher’s life savings were largely used for construction-related expenses rather than the purchase of properties for resale, Supreme Court heard yesterday.

A forensic accountant said that a portion of the $345,000 invested by Dianne Laird may have gone towards the purchase of two properties.

Some of the money was also used for personal expenses at automotive stores and a beauty parlour.

Cedric Oates, 41, denies a charge of making a statement he knew was false, misleading or deceptive.

Ms Laird, a physical education teacher, said that Mr Oates pressured her into investing into the scheme, saying his friend Michael Hopkins had made big money flipping houses in the US.

She alleges that Mr Oates told her she would have her initial investment returned within three to four months, but two years later she has not had a single penny returned.

Chartered accountant Todd Boyd told the court that on June 24, 2009, a Bank of America account was opened in the name of Mr Oates and his wife with a deposit of $25. Ms Laird wired $25,000 into the account the next day.

A sum of $8,000 was transferred to Mr Hopkins’ account on July 10.

Mr Boyd said the account would otherwise have an overdraft of more than $3,000. A second transfer of $8,000 was made on July 17.

It appeared that none of the $16,000 transferred into Mr Hopkins’ account was used to purchase property, the accountant said. The majority appeared to be used for construction-related expenses.

A further $882 was taken from Mr Oates' account before July 20, including a $764 debit charge to Western Union. Mr Boyd was unable to say where exactly the money was sent.

Ms Laird transferred a further $100,000 into the account on July 21. By August 30 a total of $94,000 was passed from Mr Oates’ account to Mr Hopkins’ account through three cheques and a debit withdrawal.

Mr Boyd said that it did not appear any of that money went towards the purchase of property either; the bulk of the cash appeared to go towards construction-related expenses.

In addition to the money moved into Mr Hopkins’ account, more than $8,000 was taken out of Mr Oates’ account, including $7,493 which Mr Boyd said was garnished from the account for a “legal order”.

Another $556 was taken from the account via a cheque made out to C&W Autobrokers, which Mr Boyd said appeared to be an auto parts business.

The balance in Mr Oates’ account as of August 30 was $5,644. Ms Laird wired a further $220,000 into the account on September 30. Between then and October 9, Mr Boyd said $113,000 was moved from that account into Mr Hopkins’.

He said it appeared that the first $35,000 transferred was used, along with other money in Mr Hopkins’ account, to purchase a $55,000 bank draft, but it was unknown who the recipient of the bank draft was.

A further $37,000 of the money sent to Mr Hopkins was used to make a payment to the US treasury; $13,000 was transferred into an account for the limited liability company created by Mr Hopkins and Mr Oates, Tac48LLC.

The majority of the remaining funds, Mr Boyd said, were used for construction-related expenses.

On October 8, $75,000 was wired from Mr Oates’ account to Pinnacle NW Escrow. Mr Boyd said the company aids in buying, selling and refinancing properties.

A further $2,400 was used to make a debit charge purchase at HHGreggs, an appliance and consumer electronics retailer, while $1,149 went to Import Performance Autoparts.

Smaller payments from the account were made to Upper Crust Restaurant, Arnolds Market, Boost Mobile and Tony’s Hair Studio.

By February 3, 2010, Mr Oates’ account contained $33.88.

Apart from the initial $25 deposit, Ms Laird was the only person who deposited any money into the account.

Mr Boyd also noted the purchase and later resale of two properties in the timeline, one of which was purchased for $55,000 around the same time Mr Hopkins bought a bank draft.

A second property was purchased for $125,000 around the same time as money was wired to Pinnacle NW Escrow from Mr Oates’ account.

The first property, purchased on September 24, 2009, sold for $185,000 in August 2010. The second property, purchased on October 9, 2009, sold for $195,200 in January 2010.

Mr Boyd said that the proceeds from the purchase did not appear in any of the account records that he saw.

Lawyer Charles Richardson, representing Mr Oates, noted that Mr Boyd only saw the records for the LLC account dated between October 7 and October 31, 2009, and neither of the properties sold during that period.

Mr Boyd told the court that he worked with the bank records provided by police. He said he requested more records, none were provided.

Mr Richardson noted that more money was going out of Mr Hopkins’ account than what was contributed by Ms Laird through Mr Oates.

He said that this could mean Mr Hopkins was investing his own money in the scheme. Mr Boyd said he did not know the source of the other funds.

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