Detention for pair in fraud case

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2013

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A man and woman who defrauded just over $130,000 from a taxpayer-funded Waikato organisation have been sentenced to home detention.

The local pair lost their bid for permanent name suppression in the Hamilton District Court yesterday, however Judge David Ruth granted their lawyers, Roger Laybourn and Kerry Burroughs, three days to appeal his decision.

In the interim, the pair's identities remain secret.

The couple received the maximum sentences of 12 months each, despite the woman's plea through Laybourn for a lesser sentence because she claimed she was under direct orders from the man.

Judge Ruth was also dubious of the woman's reasoning for wanting suppression as Crown prosecutor Louella Dunn said there was information she had imminent plans to get back into the same industry.

It was one of his key factors in Judge Ruth declining the suppression.

The woman was employed in a senior position at a Waikato organisation in which she had access to accounts and contracts.

About the start of her employment, she suggested a company associated with the man and a relative as "possible contractors" for work, describing them as a "quality provider".

The company was eventually given several separate contracts which were supposed to be signed by her relative.

However, the woman signed all of them herself in the relative's name.

Her employer then appointed her the contract manager, based on the fact that she supposedly had no personal involvement or conflict.

In each instance, the woman "circumvented" invoices, destined for her manager, signing them off herself before also stating that her supervisor had given approval. That approval was never given.

The pair were yesterday convicted on five charges of using a document and one charge of obtaining by deception, with the offending spanning several months in 2008 and 2009.

Dunn said the pair's deception was eventually uncovered when the woman went on leave.

It was then that "discrepancies emerged into the awarding of contracts... And the contracts that had been paid for by incorrect approval by [the woman]".

Dunn described the woman's offending as "calculated, premeditated... planned", involving an elaborate form of banking to avoid detection.

In the company's victim impact statement, a director wrote of the "shame" and "betrayal" that the couple's offending caused.

"She was capable in her employment and gained the trust of all with whom she worked... when she left... there was a huge sadness and dismay... once they had known what she had done."

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The director wrote that: "There's absolute shame that [she] was allowed to lead such strategic work... which is based on honesty and integrity, two traits which she did not exemplify in herself."

The man, through his counsel Burroughs, admitted manipulating the woman and that there was now a strained relationship - which he regretted.

He had offered $40,000 in reparation, while the woman stumped up with $15,000.

In his bid for permanent suppression, Laybourn advanced submissions regarding his clients' personal circumstances and the impact on her if her name was printed.

However, Judge Ruth said he had "real concern" upon learning that she had plans to get back into the same industry with her new company.

"Those that would seek to deal with her or become involved in a commercial basis... should be entitled to know the background of the person they are intending to deal [with] and that is a matter which does weigh with me," Judge Ruth said.

- Fairfax Media

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