Payroll fraud accountant sentenced

Mark Benjamin File photo
Mark Benjamin File photo

An Auckland businessman who manipulated the company payroll to give himself a $10,000 payrise, has been sentenced to 200 hours' community work.

Mark Joseph Benjamin, a 45-year-old chartered accountant was convicted of seven fraud charges after a judge-alone trial in the district court last month.

He was earlier fighting to keep his name suppressed, but this was dismissed by the court.

Benjamin was a board member of the taxpayer-funded Hortresearch, a Crown Research Institute, and was also involved with the now defunct Auckland Regional Transport Authority.

In January 2006, Benjamin was hired as the chief financial officer for bulk food importer Kerry NZ Ltd. He negotiated for a salary of $180,000 but settled at $165,000.

But a few months later - at the same time two colleagues received pay increases - Benjamin gave himself a payrise to $175,000. He did this by tampering with the computer payroll system, so that if anyone checked, it would show the $165,000 salary he was entitled to.

In June 2006, Benjamin took five days annual leave. But he gave himself the holiday pay on top of his monthly salary, effectively another $3500.

The following month, he took another five days leave. This time he reduced his monthly pay, but still on the basis of the bogus $175,000 salary - gaining an extra $1120.

Then when Benjamin left Kerry NZ in August 2006, he failed to deduct the 10 days of leave - another overpayment of $10,709.

It was nearly two years before the fraud was discovered, with police laying seven fraud charges in July 2008.

- Susie Nordqvist

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