Two people have been sentenced over a COVID-19 wage subsidy fraud that involved listing fake employees on official application forms to claim close to $70,000.
Abbey Raroa and Te Rangihaeta Te Rito Athrenos-Wise both appeared in the Auckland District Court on 14 August for sentencing on two representative charges of dishonestly taking or using a document and one charge of receiving, relating to the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.
An investigation instigated by the Ministry for Social Development found that between 14 April and 6 May 2020, Athrenos-Wise dishonestly submitted four wage subsidy applications on behalf of two companies totalling $67,536.40. Raroa was the sole director and shareholder of one of these.
Neither company was eligible for the wage subsidy because they were not operating prior to the applications being submitted, and none of the people listed in the applications were actual employees, the Ministry said in a statement.
Raroa received the wage subsidy funds, spending some on day-to-day living expenses, alcohol, and retail purchases, as well as transferring about $30,000 to her personal account.
Between 24 March and 19 May 2020, Athrenos-Wise made two further wage subsidy applications totalling $85,725.60. Both were declined without payment.
When interviewed by MSD, Raroa admitted she knew the company she was the director of was not entitled to the wage subsidy and said she didn’t question why such large sums of money had been paid into its bank account. Athrenos-Wise declined to make a statement.
Judge Debra Bell sentenced Athrenos-Wise to 22 months’ imprisonment, cumulative on a sentence currently being served for other offences. Raroa was sentenced to six months’ community detention.