Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Former SAS soldier conned Army bosses

NZ Army Corporal Theodore Marama (centre) during a NZ Army Court Martial hearing at Burnham Military Camp in Canterbury. Photo / Martin Hunter
NZ Army Corporal Theodore Marama (centre) during a NZ Army Court Martial hearing at Burnham Military Camp in Canterbury. Photo / Martin Hunter

The ex-SAS soldier dumped from the Defence Force today over a series of dishonesty offences has a history of ripping people off, it has emerged.

Corporal Theodore Laveta Marama, 53, has been jailed for four months and thrown out of the military after conning Army bosses into paying for a weekend away with his partner.

The regular force soldier, who served with the SAS in the 1980s, now awaits sentence in Christchurch District Court for his crimes.

But APNZ can reveal that it's not his first fall from grace.

After his first Army stint ended in 2001, he worked as a physical trainer at the Royal New Zealand Police College at Porirua between 2002 and 2004.

Then he moved to Canterbury where he became manager of the Rolleston Community Centre on the southern outskirts of Christchurch.

But in 2008, Marama was caught pilfering money from Selwyn District Council into his own bank account.

Over two years, he stole $26,000.

A police summary of facts said he diverted the money to help finance his own business, Community Fitness and Events Ltd.

He was convicted on charges of theft by a person in a special relationship and for dishonestly using a document for pecuniary advantage and sentenced to 200 hours of community work and community detention.

When he was sentenced, Marama made a public apology, saying his "heart was in the right place".

Friends and former Army colleagues wrote to local newspapers defending him.

"Anybody who knows Theo knows that he is not a thief," ex-soldier Ray Waipouri said.

But Judge Gary Macaskill didn't buy the "spin", and labelled Marama a "common thief".

The Defence Force today was unable to reply in time to questions over Marama's previous convictions and whether the Army knew about them when he was re-hired in 2010.

The court martial heard that in November 2012, Marama fabricated a story to get the Army to pay for a $935 weekend in Wellington with his partner.

The father-of-two then lied in emails, forms and officials documents to cover up his fraud which included flights, accommodation and meals.

The court martial also heard he falsified fitness tests, and without authorisation from his superiors, hired an external mental health agency with links to his partner to do work at the Life Change programme at the Youth Development Unit (South) at Burnham Military Camp where he worked. When he was suspended from duty last March while the Army delved in to his suspicious activities, Marama broke orders by travelling to Australia and was incommunicado a week.

At the court martial hearing at Burnham today, he pleaded guilty to 11 charges breaching the Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971.

Defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger said he'd paid back the $1700 he stole.

"He understands he has almost completely eroded the good work he's done in the Army and in various communities around the country," she said.

A panel of three military members, along with Judge Duncan Harvey, said his crimes were "an appalling breach of trust" that did "enormous harm".

"Over the years you have served the New Zealand military extremely well," the judge said, adding: "Your fall from grace has been quite dramatic."

- APNZ

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