MICHAELS - Loizos - 18/09/15
Under section 21(1) of the Parole Act 2002
Hearing: 18 September 2015
Members of the Board: Mr N Trendle – Panel Convenor
Ms M Coleman
Dr P Taylor
Support Person: (withheld)
DECISION OF THE BOARD
1. Loizos Michaels is making a further appearance before the Board on an effective sentence of eight years’ imprisonment for fraud offending. Mr Michaels was convicted of some 30 counts of fraudulent conduct involving two separate schemes. He has a statutory release date of 27 February 2019. The seriousness of Mr Michaels’ offending was reflected in a minimum period of imprisonment of three years, nine months in respect of the leading charges. That period expired in May of this year.
2. Mr Michaels is, we understand, the subject of a removal order made by the Minister of Justice under the Extradition Act 1999. He was extradited from Australia to face the charges of which he was convicted after he failed to return to New Zealand in accordance with his bail conditions. Accordingly, we are obliged to consider his risk to the safety of the community in Australia so far as today’s hearing is concerned, given that he will be immediately deported to Australia upon his release from prison; see Va’alele v New Zealand Parole Board CA288/07, 22 November 2007.
3. Mr Michaels now freely acknowledges his fraudulent conduct. He says he is ashamed of himself. He is now aware of the ongoing effects of his offending and told us he was not proud of what he did. He said he wanted to show his remorse by his actions rather than by his words. In thinking about his offending he says that he was trying to prove he was somebody other than who he was.
4. Mr Michaels’ offending was described in the Court of Appeal as a sustained fraud in which he duped otherwise astute people. The Court noted that once his victims were “hooked” they were thereafter vulnerable to his exploitative skills. He sustained a level of creative endeavour that marked him as someone who posed a significant ongoing risk. The Court observed that he was plainly capable of fooling people and he exhibited no remorse.
5. Mr Michaels conceded that he had been involved in fraud related offending in Australia prior to coming to New Zealand. He outlined a scheme in 1989 that led to what he said was a 20 month term of imprisonment. He told us about two other occasions when he was involved in fraudulent activity relating to the delivery and installation of granite bench tops. The outcome of court proceedings in respect of those matters, is not entirely clear to the Board, however.
6. Mr Michaels’ circumstances are somewhat unusual. If he were to be considered for release in New Zealand, the Board would be able to impose standard and special release conditions under the provisions of the Parole Act 2002 to mitigate his risk to the safety of the community. As he is to be deported to Australia upon release, the only parole conditions the Board can impose relate to his departure from, and non-return to, New Zealand. We have no jurisdiction to impose parole conditions that apply in Australia. Accordingly, we are unable to impose conditions or restrictions on his activity in Australia that would mitigate his risk to the safety of the community there. Nor would he be subject to supervision by a Probation Officer and he would have none of the obligations that go with a release on parole in New Zealand.
7. Effectively, then, we need to consider the issue of his risk to the safety of the community as someone who will be subject to no constraints, except, of course, to those that apply to law-abiding Australians.
8. In approaching our assessment of risk, we have regard to the seriousness of his index offending, first, in terms of the amount of loss incurred by his victims, and also its nature, described by the sentencing Judge as fraud on a personal level whereby he ingratiated himself with others to draw them into schemes where it became impossible for them to extricate themselves. He executed a sustained, ever-developing con over some 13 months. He adopted a predatory approach and chose his targets with some care.
9. Upon his return to Australia, he will have the support of his family and the Board accepts that provides a protective factor. Mr Michaels told us that he would keep away from any business related activity. He no longer feels the need to prove himself. We must also have regard to his relevant previous offending in Australia to which we have briefly referred and also to his criminal associations there. In that regard we refer, by way of example, to Mr Plakas, who, it would seem, is a co-offender who has been sentenced to imprisonment in Australia for his part in Mr Michaels’ scheme.
10. Before us Mr Michaels asserted his remorse for his victims and his shame for his offending. We are unable to attribute much weight to that expression of remorse and to his declared motivation to lead a law-abiding life in the future as a protective factor. We note he was disbelieved as a witness at his trial and also, post conviction and sentence, with respect to his evidence in the Court of Appeal. The sentencing Judge also observed that his offending was motivated by personal greed.
11. Mr Michaels does not qualify for any substantive programme or treatment in prison, so it is unlikely that he will be able to participate in any rehabilitative activity that may bring about any demonstrable personal change. We acknowledge the assistance he has provided other prisoners while subject to this sentence, but that is of limited value so far as the Board is concerned.
12. His Roc*RoI places him in a group who are at low risk of reoffending, but we must also take into account the nature and seriousness of any likely future offending. We do that in the context of the Courts’ assessment of his offending in New Zealand, and also with respect to his prior offending in Australia.
13. Drawing these threads together, we cannot be satisfied that if released on parole, Mr Michaels would not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community in Australia. His release plan falls substantially short of managing that risk. First, there is very limited evidence the Board could have confidence in of a fundamental change in his thinking. Secondly and more importantly, as the Board is unable to impose release conditions, the usual mechanisms of externally operating constraints monitored through Community Corrections’ oversight are unavailable in his case. Finally, and for both these reasons, we have no confidence that his release arrangements could manage his risk for the three years, five months remaining on his sentence.
14. We decline to direct his release on parole.
15. In considering when Mr Michaels should be seen next for parole to be considered, we cannot see any material change in his circumstances in the foreseeable future.
Accordingly, subject to his right to apply for an earlier hearing pursuant to section 26 of the Parole Act, he will be scheduled to return to the Board by 31 August 2017. In the circumstances, the Board does not specify any relevant activities to be completed by that date.
16. It would be of assistance if, prior to that hearing, Mr Michaels’ Australian convictions could be obtained through the Commissioner of Police.