A computer scientist hired by Waka Kotahi used his access to driver’s license databases to trick police, create a false identity, and take out massive loans in other people’s names to pay for meth.
One such person saw his life ruined, going from a nearly perfect credit score to one so bad he couldn’t rent a house.
David Allan Davies, 38, claims he was tricked into committing fraud by gangs to pay off a drug debt to a boarder.
But that boarder, who was believed by a judge, said there was never any debt and that Davies had to fund his own meth use.
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Davies was sentenced in Palmerston North District Court on Thursday to two years, five months and two weeks in jail for a slew of dishonesty offenses stemming from his time working for Waka Kotahi.
His job as a contractor gave him access to various sections of Waka Kotahi’s computer systems, which he used to create several fake user identities for the systems, which he used to access these databases.
He changed and attempted to change several people’s license status, giving out certain qualifications they hadn’t been tested for, while fake-licensing himself under someone else’s name.
Cybercrime is the second least reported crime, after sexual assault, according to the Crime and Victims Survey.
He also used his right of access to extricate himself from an exclusionary driving charge.
He was disqualified in 2014 but caught driving at Palmerston North in 2018, leading to the charge.
He accessed Waka Kotahi Systems and changed his license status from disqualified to reinstated before calling Waka Kotahi’s customer service center to verify that his disqualification was over.
He then accessed their system again, creating a fraudulently signed letter to himself on behalf of a senior Waka Kotahi executive which he gave to the police to “prove” his license was reinstated, which resulted in the disqualification driving charge being dropped.
He also changed the ownership and registration details of vehicles, including an Alfa Romeo 156.
He used details he gathered while at Waka Kotahi to fraudulently take out loans on behalf of others, including the name he put on his fake license.
He managed to get $53,487 and tried to get $98,000 between September 2018 and September 2020.
One victim, who spoke in court in March when Davies was originally due to be sentenced, said she was close to buying a house, had a solid job and had a credit score above 800.
But Davies’ offense — he took out multiple lines of credit in the victim’s name, depleting one and then another for a total of $26,163.61 — left the victim with such a low score that he didn’t couldn’t even rent a house.
The debt collectors harassed him, the stress increasing to such an extent that he had to quit his job.
Crown Attorney Guy Carter said Davies’ comment to a victim at a restorative justice meeting – he described the victim as “just a number” – showed a lack of empathy.
“He is not a man forced or coerced into committing this offense by others,” Carter said.
“He’s a man who just does it because he wanted to, treating people like numbers because he can and for his own satisfaction.”
Defense attorney Kila Pedder said Davies was sorry for his actions, taking the time to meet with a victim.
He also contacted credit companies to say he was the person responsible for the loans.
Davies would not be able to pay for the repairs as he was receiving an allowance to care for his mother, but he could find work if he was under house arrest, Pedder said.
In an affidavit, Davies said a boarder who moved in with his mother had a drug debt, which was transferred to him.
The gang members made him change the license details and then made him pay off the drug debts via the frauds, he said.
But the boarder said in a statement that he had no debt, instead pointing to Davies’ meth use.
He would change license details in exchange for methamphetamine and use the money from his frauds for, among other things, pet food.
The judge said Davies and his mother told a pre-sentence report writer that he fell into a bad crowd, but differed on other points.
He said he did not use drugs, while his mother said he used methamphetamine, the judge heard.
Also, a cheat was a line of credit with a farming business where he could get pet food — something much less likely to be for drug debts.
“I assumed drug gang members could have pets,” Judge said.
Davies was not ordered to pay the remedy as there was no realistic way to pay it.
In an unattributed statement, Waka Kotahi said he contacted 45 people whose accounts Davies accessed as soon as police gave his approval.
Increased security oversight was in place, including controls over who could access license information.