A liquor shop boss convicted of fraud threatened and intimidated his underpaid migrant workers in order to keep his dodgy dealings secret, a judge has said.
Yousef Bader was today sentenced to 15 months in prison at the Auckland District Court on two counts of dishonestly using a document to defraud Housing New Zealand to pay less rent on his Ponsonby state house.
Bader, originally from Jordan, has appealed the sentence and was bailed until his case is heard at the Court of Appeal.
In April, a jury found Bader guilty of twice submitting forms to the Government agency to obtain a rent subsidy for almost two years from April 2011 until March 2013. On the second occasion, he was challenged and filed further false documents.
Judge Rob Ronayne said Bader then "sat back and let the benefit accrue".
Bader also put in place a "sophisticated business set-up" which Judge Ronayne said was "carefully designed and operated to fool both the IRD and [Housing New Zealand]."
"You have abused trust based on citizens to be honest and deliberately and carefully taken advantage of a system with inherent vulnerability. Money taken by you is money taken from other honest citizens in need."
Judge Ronayne said Bader's offending only came to light after a Housing New Zealand employee read a media report that the liquor shop owner was exploiting his workers.
In 2012, former workers at Bader's Sky Liquor, Symonds Liquor and Civic City Convenience stores lodged complaints about working conditions that effectively paid them $3 or $4 an hour, according to a Herald on Sunday story at the time.
Today, Judge Ronayne said Bader "threatened and intimidated vulnerable employees to keep them silent".
"I'm satisfied that those actions were to keep your offending secret and your business practices as secret as possible. The businesses you set up were put in your son's name and you paid your employees under the table."
Judge Ronayne set a starting point of 18 months in prison with small discounts given for having no prior convictions and his lack of family support.
However, he said Bader was "motivated by greed".
He sentenced Bader to five months imprisonment for the first dishonesty charge and ten months for the second, to be served cumulatively.
Through his lawyer, Susan Gray, Bader immediately appealed the sentence and was remanded on bail until his case his heard in the Court of Appeal.