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The many faces of Jo-Anne Cole
Jo-Anne Mary Cole landed at Auckland airport in 1998, armed with her false British passport. If she had used her real identity she would have been instantly arrested

Three years earlier Jo-Anne had been charged with insurance fraud after she received a $50,000 payout for a false burglary complaint. Upon being released for bail, she packed her bags and fled to Australia. Her conviction had not deterred the previous 0900 sex line pioneer and although Telecom had axed the lines, she had a new more sophisticated and detailed scam, which would keep her in the manor she would very much like to become accustomed.

With blatant disregard to the feeling of the existing families, Jo-Anne frequented cemeteries and copied the details of any baby girls that died during the 50’s and 60’s. Armed with this information she became able to obtain birth certificates from the Register of Birth, Deaths and Marriages, by first locating the death notices of the babies and then matching their birth notices from the library achieves.

Using a Personal Computer, she was able to falsify further documents such as driver licenses, payslips and references. Using the dead babies’ identities, she signed up for the Electoral role, applied for passports and tax department numbers. Jo-Anne Cole had created 22 new identities, using wigs and glasses to change the look of each one.

Before long 10 of the identities had 18 credit cards between them. She had her house equipped with 2 phone lines so she could personally handle any credit checks and reference calls. To maintain her credit limits she would pay the minimum payment required by using another credit card.

During this time Jo-Anne had been corresponding via email with Adrienne Benson, an American that she had met during her stay in Australia. Now Jo-Anne created a new identity for her companion. Adrienne entered the country in 1999 and the couple settled in Birkenhead, Auckland.

Later in the year of 1999, after telling her that she had won $16,000 gambling, Jo-Anne invited her mother to join her on a six-week overseas trip. Her mother agreed.

Nothing but the best was good enough for Jo-Anne and her mum, they stayed at the Beverly Hills Wiltshire, Waldorf Astoria and shopped 5th Avenue, then on to Europe and spent Christmas at Euro-Disney in Paris. They lived the life of the rich and famous and returned to New Zealand mid January 2000. The trip had totalled $125,000.

It was time to move on for Jo-Anne and Adrienne and the pair moved to a house in Whitby, Wellington. More purchases were made for the new house which in conjunction with the pervious house worked out at $140,000 from bedroom furniture, $15,000.00 for house hold appliances, $15,000 on T.V and hi-fi equipment and $5000.00 for video and camera equipment.

However something went wrong with the couple and this resulted in a falling out. Adrienne packed her false passport and left for the airport only a couple months after they have arrived in Wellington.

Shortly after Adrienne’s departure, and 16 months into her scam, the police arrived and raided Jo-Anne’s house. Jo-Anne realised her lavish lifestyle had come to an end, offered a full confession and admitted she had been driven by greed.

The cracks in Cole’s scam had first begun to show while she had been overseas with her mother. Internal affairs had noticed that there were similar signatures on some passports and notified the police. Cole believed as she waited for her trail that this is how she had been caught. What Cole didn’t know at that time, was Adrienne Benson’s involvement. When Benson had tried to leave the country she was stopped for using a false passport. She was charged with passport fraud and avoided any further penalty by exposing Cole to the police. Among her details were the information that Cole kept on each identity neatly filed behind the fridge, these were located during the raid. Cole admitted to police that often she would get muddled about her identities and would carry cue cards for the identity she was using that day.

Jo-Anne Mary Cole was convicted on 165 counts of fraud, totalling $452.000. During her hearing Cole wore a black designer suit and Armani Glasses and for jail she packed a large bag full of an evening dress, Chanel make up and other designer clothing. All the names of the identities of the baby girls have been suppressed out of respect for the families.

Cole is currently serving 4 1/2 years in prison.

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Jo-Anne Mary Cole landed at Auckland airport in 1998, armed with her false British passport. If she had used her real identity she would have been instantly arrested

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