A man standing for office in the upcoming local elections stole the identities of dead babies to obtain fraudulent passports.
Savea Peseta Al Harrington Lavea - who is standing on a ticket to make the community "safe and prosperous" - was convicted along with his younger brother Romney Lavea of stealing the identities of seven dead children in 2008. The pair admitted seven charges of forgery and another seven of using a forged document, relating to offences that stretched back to the late 1990s. Lavea, then a community advisor in Papatoetoe, was sentenced to six months' home detention and ordered to pay $5000 for reparation for emotional harm.
Now he is standing as candidate on the Auckland Future ticket for a seat on the Whau Local Board.
When contacted by the Herald on Sunday, Lavea yesterday initially confirmed he was standing in the elections.
But when asked if he was the same person convicted of stealing a dead child's identity he said: "Ah no, no I don't think so. What are you talking about?" He then hung up. A man answering the phone in later calls said he was not Lavea.
Auckland Future is running 40 candidates across the city including former rugby league legend Graham Lowe. Auckland Future co-ordinator Sue Wood said the group knew of Lavea's crime and accepted him anyway.
Wood said Lavea declared his conviction and a selection panel agreed he had reformed and was worthy of nomination.
"It was considered that given the number of years that have moved on and the extent to which he has been very heavily engaged in the community, and the scale of the offending 20 years ago, we weighed up and decided that that was behind him."
Wood said Lavea was heavily involved with Auckland's Pacific Island community and had made a huge contribution to that community.
"We are hugely impressed with his commitment to the community. He's worked very hard and he was duly nominated."
She said he was a well known broadcaster and entertainer and Auckland Future was reaching out to all ethnic communities across the city to take part in local body politics.
Wood stressed that every Auckland Future candidate had their credentials checked thoroughly through a rigorous selection process which involved three board members including herself interviewing every candidate.
"He wants to serve his community on his local board."
Lowe did not want to comment on his running mate's history last night.
At Lavea's sentencing in 2008, the father of one of the dead babies told the Herald his wife died just months after learning of the theft of her infant son's name.
Brian Thrussell said his son Phillip Evan Thrussell only lived for 26 hours after a botched birth in 1960.
Thrussell, then 73, said he blamed the death of his wife Maxine on the Laveas' crime because she was only 66 at the time and the news had caused her great distress.
On his Facebook page where Lavea promotes his candidacy, he says: "We no longer trust the big major parties because of their dishonesty and broken promises. Their sitting members on the current board have put their needs first before the community, causing chaos with the conflict of interest, bad governance and unaccountable for their actions and lack of transparency." Voting papers go out in early September, ahead of the elections on October 8.
Lavea is not the first political figure to be found guilty of identity theft. Former Act MP David Garrett resigned from Parliament in 2010 when it was revealed that 25 years earlier, he had obtained a passport in the name of a dead baby.