Lani Lopez avoids conviction for theft

ROB KIDD
Last updated 14:09 22/11/2012
Lani Lopez
Fairfax NZ
LANI LOPEZ: Diverted $2000 from a company account into her daughter's bank account.

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TV and radio personality Lani Lopez was yesterday discharged without conviction after pleading guilty to theft.

Lopez, under her real name Elena Charnley, was privately prosecuted by the man who bought her out of a health supplements business in 2010.

The naturopath, who gave diet advice on the TV2 show Even My Pet's a Porker, diverted $2000 from a company account into her daughter's bank account.

Daniel King, who bought Lopez out of her business About Health in 2010 for around $1 million, brought the private prosecution after police declined to take action.

Lopez repaid the $2000 she took, paid $10,000 prosecution costs, and paid $5000 to charity.

Judge Aitken had previously said if the money was paid it was "highly likely" a discharge without conviction would be granted.

Lopez, who has declined to comment on the case, was refused name suppression early on in proceedings.

Court documents ending Lopez's name suppression showed that King brought the case because he was "sick and tired of the defendant holding herself out as an honest person when, based on these actions, she is not".

Judge Aitken's decision on name suppression outlined the alleged offending.

On May 26, 2011, seven months after Lopez left About Health, she sent an email to Kiwibank instructing the bank to close one of About Health's accounts and transfer the money into her daughter's account.

King claimed that she had used a document to obtain a pecuniary advantage - the email - and dishonestly dealt with the money with the intent to deprive the owner of it.

The judge said there was no dispute that the action occurred, but Lopez's intent would be the issue.

The money had been paid back and Lopez had apologised, the judge said, but Lopez had not explained her actions.

There appeared to be a "relatively strong" prima facie case, the judge said.

King said he took the private prosecution because "I just felt it's the only way I could get justice". 

Lopez formerly called the issue "a minor matter" that had been "brought against me over a minor matter by my former business partner, who is now a competitor".

King did not argue against Lopez's discharge without conviction.

*A report of this case on October 11 suggested Ms Lopez had pleaded guilty to theft charges on that date. This was not correct. The error is regretted.

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