Thai sex worker trial: Mixed verdicts for women accused of fraud of $250,000

A Hamilton jury has returned mixed verdicts in relation to two Thai sex workers accused of defrauding three elderly men of more than $250,000.

Nualpan Coxon, 67, and Pornthip Phonkoed, 63, both of Auckland, have been on trial in the Hamilton District Court this week defending six representative charges of obtaining by deception and one of blackmail, which relates to allegedly using a half naked photo of one of the men to hand over money after he initially refused.

The offence period was between August 2015 and February 2018 and allegedly involved about $253,000.

Judge Stephen Clark sent the jury out to begin their deliberations at 12.45pm and they returned with unanimous verdicts just after 5pm today.

They were both found guilty of five representative charges of obtaining by deception.

However, they were found not guilty on a sixth charge of obtaining by deception relating to $2000 for Japanese exchange students on December 4, 2017.

The defendants were also found not guilty of the blackmail charge.

The women remained emotionless as the verdicts were delivered and interpreted for them this evening.

Judge Clark convicted the women and remanded them on bail for sentencing in April.

Their bail conditions include not to apply for any travel documents or attempt to retrieve their passports from the Hamilton District Court along with an 8pm to 6am curfew.

Earlier, crown prosecutor Rebecca Mann told the jury in her closing statement that the pair groomed and then set about defrauding the elderly complainants.

The accused had accepted they did receive money which meant the jury could focus on whether there were any “false representations made and with an intention to deceive without any claim of right”.

Mann told the jury the pair were working together to befriend the complainants before setting out to extract money from them.

“The evidence establishes that the money was not put to [use] for the purposes claimed.

“It was also clear that the way they spent the funds that they had no intention of paying them back.”

Coxon’s defence counsel Russell Boot told the jury the complainants “willingly” lent Coxon the money.

“They were not deceived in any way. They were benefiting from receiving the money.

“The only right and proper verdict for Ms Coxon are ones of not guilty.”

Boot told the jury they had to be satisfied that the complainants were truthful and reliable witnesses, however he questioned how they could be sure of that given they were complete “stranger” to them and also their English language wasn’t the best.

“English is not their best language … are you sure that it’s actually an accurate account of what took place?

“Obviously it could be lost in translation. In no circumstances could you be sure that what was said … was exactly what was conveyed to you.”

Boot said there was also no evidence that Coxon induced the complainants to pay money to her.

As for Mr C, who lost more than $200,000, “he was having a great time, he was enjoying their company .. he wasn’t being induced .. because he was wanting a continuation of what was occurring.”

Phonkoed’s counsel Rob Quin told the jury there was no deception, “they were, in their own words, ‘stupid’.”

“They knew what they were getting into, they didn’t want it to end and were happy to keep paying for the companionship, services, and attention the defendants gave them.

“They didn’t care what it was for. They would have given it to them anyway.

“It wasn’t until their wives and daughters found out … that it became an issue.”

He said there simply wasn’t any proof that the money wasn’t used as they said it would be.

He said no inquiries were made with the immigration office about whether any payments were made to them.

As for Mr A, Quin said he even admitted how generous he was to the defendants, describing himself as “deranged and delirious”.

“He referred to how generous he was .. it was clear that he was very generous when his wife was overseas … and he was receiving sexual favours from them.”

Quin said Mr A soon realised that his joint account was quickly becoming empty and his wife was due home imminently. It was then “he started panicking”, he told the jury.

As for Mr C, his relationship “started with a massage and had a happy ending”.

“It went on from there … he told you in his own words it was wonderful and how he didn’t want it to end.”

There was no formal repayment agreement or repayment date.

“He didn’t care what they were going to do with it … it has to be proved that the reasons were material.

“He would have given them the money whatever it was for.

“The relationship was clearly beneficial to both parties. You could tell from his evidence that he was clearly enjoying it.”

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