A man who claimed to be a Tahitian prince has been sentenced to 14 years in jail for defrauding an Australian health department of more than 16 million Australian dollars ($16.6 million) to fund his extravagant lifestyle.
New Zealand-born Hohepa Hikairo ‘Joel’ Morehu-Barlow, 38, was found guilty by the Brisbane District Court to eight charges including forgery and aggravated fraud while working as a middle manager for Queensland Health between October 2007 and December 2011.
Judge Karry O’Brien said Morehu-Barlow ran an “audacious but uncomplicated scheme” in which he diverted funds to a third party account before depositing funds into his own bank.
“I cannot ignore the amount of money that’s involved here,” O’Brien said, as reported by The Australian.
“The funds diverted by Morehu-Barlow were public monies earmarked… to support charities and other community groups,” prosecutor Todd Fuller told the court.
“The money was used to fund a lavish lifestyle… for a so-called Tahitian prince forced to work to gain his royal inheritance.”
The court heard he was promoted in the organization based on qualifications from a fake law degree and regularly signed bank documents using the letters HRH, short for His Royal Highness.
When he was arrested in his exclusive waterfront apartment in 2011, police found a trove of luxury items including a fake crown, reports Australia News Network.