Racing Trainer Who Sold Nonexistent Horse Gambled $2M Before Bankruptcy

Posted on: April 25, 2024, 06:47h. 

Last updated on: April 26, 2024, 09:08h.

A former harness-racing trainer from New Zealand was convicted last year of fraud for selling a horse that didn’t exist. This week, it emerged he illegally gambled more than $2 million before filing for bankruptcy, according to local media reports.

Mitchell Kerr, Mitch Kerr Racing, fraud, bankruptcy
Mitchell Kerr, right, sold a nonexistent horse, not pictured, as part of a scam to fleece his victim. On Wednesday, he admitted to a slew of bankruptcy violations. (Image: Stuff)

In June 2022, Mitchell Kerr was sentenced to seven months’ home detention for selling the fictitious animal for NZ$40,000 (US$25K). That was in addition to other industry-related frauds.

He also sent invoices to six owners for insurance premiums on fabricated policies he claimed he had taken out on their horses. And, he forged the signature of one owner of two horses on documents to reduce their ownership percentage of the horses without their knowledge.

A successful trainer during his three-year career, with 87 wins for around $900K in stake money, Kerr was banned for life from the industry for his transgressions.

Books Cooked

On Wednesday, Kerr pleaded guilty to several charges related to violating bankruptcy laws at the Christchurch District Court and was sentenced to five months home detention.

One month before he was banned from racing, Kerr filed for bankruptcy, owing creditors $270K.

Just before that, he gambled more than $2 million on horse and dog racing, according to The Press, losing almost $1 million. That’s a crime under New Zealand’s Insolvency Act.

Kerr also violated several other provisions in the act. These included declaring an annual income of $40K when analysis of his bank accounts revealed it was closer to $228K, according to court filings. He also claimed he had opened just one bank account in the previous five years, when in fact he had opened six, prosecutors said.

Furthermore, he was found to have had continued involvement in the management of his company, Mitch Kerr Racing, despite being banned from doing so under bankruptcy regulations.

Buyer’s Remorse

Kerr sold the phantom horse, an unraced three-year-old standardbred, to his victim in September 2019.

The buyer became suspicious after Kerr failed to send ownership papers. Kerr then informed his victim the horse wouldn’t make the grade and was a lost cause. When pressed further for proof of the horse’s existence, Kerr sent the buyer images of a different horse that matched the description of the one the buyer was led to believe he had purchased.

Kerr continued to invoice his victim for training, fees, and insurance totaling $26K 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,” Kerr claimed in court Wednesday. “I work and I contribute to my community every day.”