A woman convicted of fraudulently using her neighbour's bank card says her accuser didn't want to get in trouble for going on a Trade Me ''spending spree''.
Caroline Fuatavai was convicted of five dishonesty charges in July 2011 and was later sentenced to four months community detention, 75 hours community work and ordered to pay $1120 reparation.
Fuatavai was charged after her neighbour reported her Eftpos card missing in February 10, 2011.
The charges related to Fuatavai checking the balance of her neighbour's Eftpos card at SkyCity - but not making a withdrawal - eight days earlier, and four withdrawals totalling $1120, made on three separate occasions later that month, near where the pair lived in Beach Haven.
At her trial Fuatavai said she checked her neighbour's balance at her request and knew the pin number from previous occasions when she'd been asked to use it. She denied the Beach Haven transactions were made without her neighbour's authority.
According to a recent High Court decision, the sentencing judge determined the case on the basis of credibility, that Fuatavai's neighbour was never at SkyCity and hadn't supplied her pin number.
Fuatavai's case was not helped by the fact she had 72 previous dishonesty convictions, although her record had been clean for 10 years.
Fuatavai argued at appeal that had police told her what day she was accused of using the Eftpos card at SkyCity, she could have requested security footage that showed her neighbour was with her. She said security footage at Beach Haven would have shown the same, but police said there were no cameras near the ATM used.
Fuatavai claimed her neighbour had gone on a Trade Me ''spending spree'' while her husband was overseas, something she knew because she had driven her to collect the items she had bought.
She said her neighbour had ''made up the story about the card being stolen to avoid her husband's wrath and to obtain compensation from the bank''.
The appeal judge said the neighbour admitted she had made some Trade Me purchases for $150 and $400, paid for with cash, and that her husband was in China at the time.
When asked why she hadn't immediately sought a replacement card after she noticed it was missing, the neighbour said: ''Because I love money. I'm not allowed to use... the card, otherwise, on this month, on this time, I haven't got any money come into the account,'' the appeal decision reads.
The appeal judge said it was telling that Fuatavai hadn't tried to withdraw money at SkyCity, ''Why would a would-be thief simply check the balances?''
The decision noted the neighbour had frequented the casino in the past and was banned, something the appeal judge said may indicate she was there but ''did not wish to be seen''.
The judge said Fuatavai couldn't be found guilty of the dishonesty charges beyond reasonable doubt and quashed her conviction and sentence. A re-trial was not ordered.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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