Woman to repay stolen cash

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 05/06/2014

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The former chairwoman of a Palmerston North kohanga reo has been ordered to pay back the thousands of dollars she stole from the childcare centre's coffers.

Te Whanau Mana Kakano Kohanga Reo, based at Terrace End School, was forced to rely on the help of the whanau that use it after its former board of trustees chairwoman, Petrice Naha Gillies, 28, systematically stole money from its accounts.

Gillies was sentenced for the offence in the Palmerston North District Court this week by Judge Barbara Morris, who ordered her to repay $20,000 and sentenced her to three months' home detention.

In late 2012 or early 2013, Gillies was elected chairwoman of the kohanga reo's board of trustees.

When the administrator left, she and the head teacher changed the password for internet banking for security reasons but Gillies later changed the password again, giving herself exclusive access to the accounts.

From January 31 to November 2013, she made 37 unauthorised internet banking transactions, 36 of those into her own bank account, totalling $21,810.

In one transaction, on March 20 last year, Gillies transferred $5500 into her own account and within that week told the kohanga reo's head teacher she had bought a car on Trade Me.

Gillies' pleaded guilty in March and, at the time, kohanga reo kaiwhakahaere, or manager, Erena Raneka said the centre's whanau were relieved and wanted recompense.

The kohanga reo were forced to make some difficult decisions after Gillies' offending came to light, including letting four paid staff go, selling vehicles owned by the centre which were used to collect children and coping with dwindling rolls, caused by the uncertainty following Gillies' arrest.

The playcentre fraud is the second education-related fraud reported in Palmerston North this year.

The case is reminiscent of Palmerston North woman Charmaine Rose Bellamy's conviction earlier this year of obtaining by deception.

Bellamy, 44, admitted defrauding Milson Playcentre of thousands of dollars, and abusing her position of power when arranging accounts to try and cover her tracks.

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- Manawatu Standard

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