A man has been jailed for more than two years after he created a company to defraud taxpayers of more than $120,000 through the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme, following a Ministry of Social Development (MSD) investigation.
Uatesoni Filimoehala, 40, also known as Watson Filimoehala, appeared for sentencing in the Auckland District Court on Friday, having admitted four charges of dishonestly taking or using a document.
In a statement, the Ministry said the prosecution was part of a substantial continuing work programme aimed at providing assurance that those who received wage subsidy payments were entitled to them. More than 38 people have been brought before the courts for wage subsidy misuse to date.
Filimoehala, who was bankrupt at the time, registered 42 Construction Limited with the Companies Office on 17 April 2020, shortly after the Wage Subsidy Scheme was implemented.
He went on to submit six fraudulent wage subsidy applications for 42 Construction, with the first being submitted only a few hours after the company was registered.
Three of these applications were successful and a total of $126,532.80 was paid into Filimoehala’s bank account. He also unsuccessfully applied for a further $42,491.20.
Subsequent checks by MSD found none of the employees listed in the fraudulent applications worked for 42 Construction. Some were actually working elsewhere and receiving wage subsidies for that employment.
There was also no evidence to suggest 42 Construction was trading at the time the fraudulent applications were made.
Judge Robyn von Keisenberg sentenced Filimoehala to 27 months’ imprisonment.