An odd courtroom drama played out at the Hastings District Courtroom in New Zealand today. The judge-only trial involved a 95-year-old WW II veteran and a 48-year old American migrant promising returns on investment with bitcoins exchanged from the veteran’s £10,000 RAF pension fund.
As reported by regional publication Stuff, local police alleged that Roy Toler, a 48-year-old American migrant in New Zealand had taken the pension funds belonging to 95-year-old Geoff Bibby, a Lancaster Bombers navigator of the Royal Air Force during World War II, to invest them into bitcoins without the veteran’s knowledge.
The Judge heard that Bibby wanted to transfer his RAF pension fund of £10,000 from the UK to his new adopted home in New Zealand in late 2015. However, traditional banking charges or wire transfer fees put off the veteran who began looking for other solutions.
An acquaintance introduced Bibby to Toler who, according to Bibby, claimed he could transfer the funds with no fees and that they would credit Bibby’s account within eight working days.
For his part, Toler denied the claim and instead stated that he had told the veteran about bitcoin instead. According to him, Bibby had agreed to invest his pension into the cryptocurrency.
As reported by the publication, Bibby stated in court:
I had absolutely no intention of investing the money. He mentioned something about Bitcoin, but I wasn’t interested. I thought it was a load of codswallop and I couldn’t understand it.
The funds were transferred to an account held by a limited company of which Toler was sole director, in October 2015. There was no written agreement about the transfer of funds. Two months later, all of the money was spent by Toler.
Toler told the Judge that he held USD$45,000 in bitcoins and that he had put a portion of this amount in ‘Bibby’s name’, according to the publication, in exchange for the pension fund.
Toler claimed his bitcoin account was hacked soon after the pension funds had arrived, adding that he hasn’t been able to recover these lost bitcoins since.
Bibby, who did not see the funds credit his account, persevered for a whole year asking Toler about his pension funds, to no avail. Finally, he went to the police.
A short while after, Toler gave Bibby a bank cheque for NZ$22,500.
Judge Bridget Mackintosh reportedly pointed to ‘well-publicised skepticism’ about bitcoin’s integrity, noting that the ‘Bitcoin scheme’, as stated by the publication, seemed very complex.
Toler is charged with obtaining (money) by deception and Judge Mackintosh has made no ruling yet, reserving her decision in court today.
Images from Shutterstock.