Fraudster accountant struck off for payroll scam

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Mark Benjamin was convicted in 2010 of giving himself a $10,000 pay rise. Photo / Supplied
Mark Benjamin was convicted in 2010 of giving himself a $10,000 pay rise. Photo / Supplied

A chartered accountant who manipulated a company payroll system to give himself a $10,000 pay rise has been struck off the professional register.

Aucklander Mark Joseph Benjamin, 47, was convicted of seven fraud charges in November 2010 and received a sentence of 200 hours of community work.

The case was passed on to the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants which had now decided to removed Benjamin's name from its register of members.

He was also ordered to pay costs of $6,656.

Benjamin had been on the board of taxpayer-funded HortResearch, a Crown Research Institute, and was involved with the now defunct Auckland Regional Transport Authority.

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

But Benjamin then lifted his pay to $175,000 a few months later.

He tampered with the computer payroll system so that, if anyone checked, it would show the $165,000 annual salary he was entitled to.

When Benjamin took five days' annual leave in June 2006, he gave himself the $3500 holiday pay on top of his monthly salary.

The following month, he took another five days leave, reducing his monthly pay but still on the basis of the bogus $175,000 salary.

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

Benjamin failed to attend last week's Disciplinary Tribunal hearing in Auckland. He was not represented by counsel and entered no plea.

He told the Tribunal in writing that he did not intend to defend the charge or enter a plea on the basis the Tribunal had no jurisdiction.

The Tribunal went ahead on the basis that Benjamin had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

"The Member was entrusted by his employer with the management of its payroll system," said Tribunal chairman Jim Hoare.

"The Member betrayed that trust by manipulating that system to his personal advantage. Such action tends to bring the profession into disrepute. Accordingly the Tribunal finds the Member guilty as charged.

"Manipulation of an employer's computer system for personal advantage is a serious breach of trust and is incompatible with membership of the Institute."

Benjamin earlier this year lost an appeal against his conviction.

The Court of Appeal said it found no merit in Benjamin's allegations of errors by the prosecution and judge.

- NZ Herald

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