Fraudster Harford’s early release

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A Queenstowner jailed for his part in one of New Zealand’s biggest public service frauds is free after serving little more than quarter of his sentence. 

The Parole Board has granted Kerry Harford early release from a four-year, three-month stretch. 

Harford was let out of the so-called Milton Hilton prison near Dunedin just over a month ago after spending only 13 months and two weeks inside. 

He was granted parole on April 26, three days after becoming eligible for it. 

It appears the former surveyor – who helped the fraud’s mastermind Michael Swann rort $16.9 million from the cash-strapped Otago District Health Board – has returned to reside with his family at a Frankton address. Living there is one of the conditions of Harford’s release. 

The Parole Board’s written decision from panel convenor Judge John Macdonald withholds exactly where Harford is required to live but when Mountain Scene knocked at his Frankton home on Monday, the convicted fraudster opened the door. 

He wasn’t in the mood for a chat. 

“I’d appreciate a phone call first,” he said, before shutting the door. 

A phone call 20 minutes later drew a blank. A youth answered, saying Harford wasn’t in and he didn’t know when he’d be back. 

The Parole Board decision saysits sole responsibility is assessing whether Harford poses an undue risk to community safety. 

“Undoubtedly Mr Harford’s offending was extremely serious but it is not for the board in engage in some re-sentencing exercise.” 

The board notes he has no prior convictions and good support from family and friends. 

“Mr Harford’s risk to the community can be adequately managed by release conditions.” 

Under those conditions, he must tell his probation officer any time he changes jobs and he can’t be self-employed. 
Nor can he hold a position where he’s able to generate invoices or manage other people’s finances.Harford is also forbidden from contacting Swann, a friend from university days who worked as the ODHB chief information officer. 

Harford’s company Sonnford Solutions invoiced ODHB 196 times between August 2000 and August 2006 for monies in return for IT goods and services. His company kept 10 per cent – roughly $1.8m – and most of the rest, almost $15m, ended up with Swann companies. 

During summing up at sentencing, Justice Lyn Stevens noted computer giant IBM could have done the same job for a quarter of the price. 

Harford reached a confidential reparation settlement with the ODHB before his sentencing in Dunedin. 

Swann is serving a nine-and-a-half year sentence including a minimum term of four-and-a-half years behind bars.