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New Plymouth man sentenced for money laundering after cryptocurrency, puppy scam

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Guy Behan-Kitto was involved in a scam that sold fake puppies online. Photo / ThinkStock

A man embroiled in a scam involving fake puppies, cryptocurrency and mystery offshore perpetrators has been pinged for money laundering – but he says he was a victim too.

Guy Behan-Kitto appeared in New Plymouth District Court earlier this week, facing a representative charge of money laundering relating to the scheme that ripped off multiple people of thousands of dollars.

The court heard the victims had responded to advertisements on Facebook and Buy and Sell listing puppies and car parts for sale. It’s likely the posts originated offshore.

Behan-Kitto, of Taranaki, aided the transactions by allowing the perpetrators to use his bank account to redistribute the money into cryptocurrency before it was moved overseas.

For his involvement, he received 10 per cent of all transactions.

Each of the fraudulent transactions occurred in December 2022 and began with a $200 payment from a victim who believed she was buying a puppy.

But after the payment was made, the victim was blocked from contacting the seller and the puppy was never delivered, nor the money reimbursed.

This was the modus operandi used in five further transactions.

They included $500 for a vehicle part, $400 for a puppy, $1000 for a puppy, $2700 for a sleepout and $460 for bullbars.

Another transaction involved a victim receiving a text message via WhatsApp from someone pretending to be their daughter.

The victim was asked to pay $4221.45 into Behan-Kitto’s bank account with the belief that their “daughter” needed the money urgently.

After the payment was made, the victim received no further communication from the sender.

In explanation for his offending, Behan-Kitto told police that his partner was contacted by an unknown person on Snapchat asking to use her account to purchase Cryptocurrency.

But he gave his bank account to the unknown person instead, the court heard.

Behan-Kitto appeared in New Plymouth District Court this week.
Behan-Kitto appeared in New Plymouth District Court this week.

At his sentencing, the court heard from the victim who lost $1000.

She had suffered mentally and financially, she said in a statement read by a victim advisor.

“I was so excited about getting a puppy.”

The woman said the seller used a “cute” photo and provided a personal story about the dog coming from a family.

She was angry with herself for not realising earlier it was a hoax, noting the number listed and the seller’s “pathetic spelling” and “use of the English language”.

“I should have immediately known that this was a scam but I didn’t until I sent the money.”

She tried to have the payment cancelled but was too late.

Crown prosecutor Holly Bullock argued the full loss to each victim should be paid by Behan-Kitto, rather than only the 10 per cent he had collected from each transaction.

But defence lawyer Josie Mooney disagreed, stating while he could pay the 10 per cent immediately, he could not afford the full amount.

Behan-Kitto also felt he was somewhat of a victim, Mooney said.

“There was a clear naivety on his behalf as to what exactly was being undertaken.”

Mooney said Behan-Kitto’s employment would suffer due to the conviction and that he felt terrible about what had happened to the victims.

“He was entirely unaware of this background, but it is accepted that he should have seen the red flags and he should have asked further questions and that’s where the guilty plea has come from.”

Judge Gregory Hikaka, however, ordered the full reparation amount.

He said without Behan-Kitto’s involvement, the victims would not be victims.

“Your offending robbed them.”

In addition to the reparation, Behan-Kitto was convicted and ordered to come up for sentence if called upon within the next 12 months.

Tara Shaskey joined NZME in 2022 as a news director and Open Justice reporter. She has been a reporter since 2014 and previously worked at Stuff where she covered crime and justice, arts and entertainment, and Māori issues.

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