Former rich lister sentenced over pokie theft

By Brendan Manning

McGurk has been found guilty of stealing $35k of pokie money from his central Auckland hotel, the Albion. Photo / NZ Herald
McGurk has been found guilty of stealing $35k of pokie money from his central Auckland hotel, the Albion. Photo / NZ Herald

A former NBR rich-lister has been sentenced to home detention and 100 hours' community service after taking $35,000 in pokie money from his pub machines.

Michael McGurk, 54, was found guilty by a jury in February on one charge of theft by a person in a special relationship over the taking of funds from pokies at the central Auckland hotel he formerly owned.

At his sentencing in Auckland District Court today, Judge Claire Ryan said the community had lost an "irrecoverable" amount of money as a result of McGurk's offending.

Gambling machine proceeds weren't deposited into a separate account or earmarked accordingly, but instead were used to "prop your business up and pay off debts", she said.

When it had come time to pay the pokies proceeds in the past, McGurk had topped up the shortfall with takings from the till, Judge Ryan said.

It was a system which McGurk had run for nine years, the court was told.

The process was unlawful and in breach of his gambling licence contract, Judge Ryan said.

"Clearly there were account management issues which were significant."

The fact the money was taken by the Albion's receivers to pay a bigger debt didn't absolve him, she said.

"The community's lost a lot of money and it's irrecoverable."

In sentencing McGurk, Judge Ryan said any reparation was impossible as he had been declared bankrupt and had no assets. Although he had a meagre income stream, it was not significant enough to impose any reparation, Judge Ryan said.

She instead sentenced him to five months' home detention and 100 hours' community work.

McGurk declined to comment when approached outside court.

The former rich-lister founded the Spa and Pool Factory and previously owned a string of pubs.

At the height of his success, his personal wealth was estimated at $60 million by the NBR Rich List.

- APNZ

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