A Hamilton woman stole more than $9000 off Waikato Child Cancer Foundation after losing her own child to cancer.
Alina Kate Jenks' lawyer Roger Laybourn described the offending as having "an aura of tragedy and inexplicability about it" as she had never been in trouble with the law.
One of Jenks' children died of cancer in 2007, and Mr Laybourn said his client then thought she would repay the Foundation's gratitude by becoming a volunteer.
She was eventually elected an officer of the Waikato branch and was given signing authority.
Jenks, a teacher aide, used 13 cheques - with 13 fake excuses to gain Foundation sign off - between March 14, 2011 and April 2012, culminating in a theft of $9512.80.
However, Judge David Ruth accepted that she didn't spend the money on extravagant offerings, rather petrol and items for her family.
Mr Laybourn said Ms Jenks' work was gratefully received by the Foundation but she eventually found she was building up expenses.
"So she started using cheques, having authority, to essentially recompense herself. Now, that's not justified and for a very long period she was at a loss as to why she would have behaved in that way."
Jenks had since had counselling, he said.
"She wanted to say publicly, that she is extremely ashamed of her actions and she feels the shame and embarrassment and wants to profusely say that she feels that she let down the good people of the Child Cancer Foundation and that distresses her greatly."
Judge David Ruth said there were a number of factors in Jenks' case which differentiated her from other fraud offenders, including her child's death, and her willingness to help the Foundation and pay them back.
Judge Ruth convicted and sentenced Jenks to 100 hours' community work and nine months supervision. She also has to pay reparation of $9512.80 within 14 days.
Child Cancer Foundation chairman John Robson said Jenks' offending was discovered after irregularities were picked up in a random spot check audit of the Waikato branch's books.
Mr Robson said they took any allegation of fraud "really, really seriously".
"Siphoning of donor funds is really serious and can cause irreparable damage and that's why you refer matters to police because you just can't afford for people to think that you're not being responsible."
Mr Robson was heartened to hear Jenks would repay the money.
"We would welcome that," he said.
Graeme Russell, principal of Charity Matters, a consultancy firm for charity organisations, said just over half of all charity thefts were reported.
Mr Russell said that was due to charities being worried about creating a public perception that their money wasn't safe.
- New Zealand charity fraud has dropped from 3.8 per cent in 2006 to 0.34 per cent in 2012
- 90 frauds in 2011/12 totalling $480,000 - averaging $5300 per fraud
- 26,000 registered charities in New Zealand
- The most common charity fraudster profile: female, in her 40s, paid employee in a non-accounting position
- Half of all targeted charities never recouped their losses
- Larger charity organisations, including international, most common targets for fraud as funds handled by intermediaries.
Statistics: Charity Matters
- © Fairfax NZ News
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