Pastor disappointed man stole from church

By Kristin Edge

John Hoko tried to abide by the law and be guided by God but he fell from grace when he stole from his church three times.

A church leader said he was disappointed Hoko had ended up in court but wished him the very best for his rehabilitation.

Hoko, 48, from Whangarei was sentenced to 10 months' home detention when he appeared in Whangarei District Court yesterday.

He had previously pleaded guilty to three charges of burglary of the Christian Renewal Church on Tarewa Rd in April and November last year.

A police summary of facts said Hoko went to the church and used a screwdriver to pry open the fire doors. Hoko then used an electric drill he had taken with him to remove a donation box from the wall.

He shook the box and managed to steal $200.

In a second burglary of the church in early November Hoko used the same method to break in and this time took two video cameras worth $800. Hoko decided he wanted to put the cameras into safe keeping and broke into a garage in Raumanga Heights, where he stored the cameras and two boxes of his belongings.

Later the same month Hoko launched another attack on the church and broke in the same fire doors using a screwdriver.

This time his haul was six electric guitars. He hid five of them in bushes near the church and took one, valued at $6500, with him.

He later sold it for $400.

When police confronted Hoko about the burglaries he said the church owed him some support and he was trying to get their attention.

Church pastor Graham Kelly said Hoko had been a member of the church and while he had come from a "rugged background" he seemed to have made some real changes.

"We were helping him and he was supportive of the church. We wish him all the very best and are disappointed for him and his family.

"I think the judge was fairly lenient on him. We see potential in him and obviously the judge did too."

The video cameras and guitars were all recovered and returned to the church.

Hoko was also sentenced on two burglaries that occurred in April this year.

Police said about 3am on April 9 Hoko broke into Stellar Health Store and Hairbenders on Davies St.

Hoko smashed his way through a skylight in Hairbenders, stole two aprons and then proceeded to go through a ceiling cavity into the neighbouring health store where he stole more than 200 packets of herbal highs.

He told police he couldn't remember doing the burglaries but woke up to find all the stuff around him.


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