The Beehive building

Home detention for wage subsidy “abuse of trust”

05 April 2023.

A Gisborne woman has been sentenced to home detention for fraudulently obtaining more than $63,000 in wage subsidy funds.

Shannelle Jan Oraina Hohipa-Kahuroa appeared for sentencing in the Gisborne District Court on 5 April 2023 having admitted three charges of dishonestly using a document in connection with the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Between 24 April 2020 and 20 August 2021, Hohipa-Kahuroa made eight applications to the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), seeking a total of $161,851.20 in wage subsidies.

Seven of the applications were in her own name. The other was in the name of a fruit-picking company that had been removed from the Companies Register in December 2019.

She was paid a total of $63,266.40 for two of the applications. The rest were declined.

MSD’s investigation established there was no evidence of the required revenue decline and none of the employees named were actual employees of either Hohipa-Kahuroa or the fruit-picking company at the time.

Hohipa-Kahuroa used most of the wage subsidy funds she received for her own personal use, including to pay off various personal debts and purchase a vehicle.

Judge Warren Cathcart said this sort of fraud had much wider ramifications for the community, given its potential to undermine confidence in the Wage Subsidy Scheme.

“The entire scheme rested heavily on the honesty of the applicants who were making the requests. Here you abused that trust for financial gain.”

She was sentenced to eight and a half months’ home detention and ordered to repay the outstanding wage subsidy funds.