Former Harness-Racing Trainer Squanders $2M in Gambling Fraud Before Filing Bankruptcy

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Mitchell Kerr, a former harness-racing trainer hailing from New Zealand, has seen his fair share of scandal. Not only was he convicted of fraud last year for an elaborate scheme that involved selling a non-existent horse, but recent developments unmask another shocking twist: Kerr immorally gambled more than $2 million before filing for bankruptcy.

Last June, Kerr sat uncomfortably in the defendant’s chair while the charges were read out. He was sentenced to a seven-month home detention for selling an imaginary creature worth NZ$40,000 (US$25K), a deceitful act that merely scratched the surface of his underhanded tactics.

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As the deeper layers of Kerr’s deceit came to light, it was discovered that he presented fabricated invoices to six horse owners, alleging that he had taken out insurance policies on their horses. Not leaving it at that, he further falsified the signature of an owner of two horses to oppressively reduce their ownership percentage, all without their cognisance.

Before his fall from grace, Kerr was well-respected in the racing world, attributing his name to 87 wins and approximately $900,000 in stake money in his three-year career. His glittering achievements notwithstanding, Kerr was handed a life ban from the industry as punishment for his offences.

Earlier this week, the calamitous saga reconvened at the Christchurch District Court, where Kerr pleaded guilty to several charges relating to bankruptcy law violations, and was met with another sentence of five months home detention.

A month before receiving his ban, Kerr filed for bankruptcy, leaving creditors at a standstill, owed to the tune of $270K. Alarmingly, it was disclosed that prior to this, Kerr excessively gambled over $2 million on horse and dog races, losing nearly half of it. Such reckless financial conduct amounts to criminal activity under New Zealand’s Insolvency Act.

Investigations into Kerr’s financial affairs brought to light further misconduct. His culpability was laid bare when he was found to be understating his income, claiming an annual rate of $40K when the stark depth of his bank account records revealed the figure to be closer to $228K.

Making matters worse, Kerr had declared he’d opened just one bank account in the previous five years, when he had, in fact, opened six. Adding fuel to the fire was the revelation that he was intricately involved in managing his company, Mitch Kerr Racing, a blatant violation of bankruptcy regulations that proscribe such activity.

The unnerving journey down Kerr’s trail of deception began in September 2019 when he executed the sale of a phantom horse. Naively, a buyer had purchased what was described as an unraced three-year-old standardbred, but suspicion arose when Kerr failed to provide the necessary ownership documents. Questioned about the whereabouts of the horse, Kerr presented images of a different horse.

Worsening the plight of his victim, Kerr continually invoiced them for training, fees, and insurance totalling $26K long after the fraudulent sale. “I am a different person now, and I just want to put my head down and carry on with my life. I work and I contribute to my community every day”, Kerr commented in court. The depth of his remorsefulness remains to be seen as he continues to face the legal consequences of his actions.