Upper Hutt College was swindled out of $375,000 by former executive officer Donald Hancox, who today pleaded guilty to 10 fraud charges.

Hancox submitted 77 false invoices for goods and services between 2007 and 2014, a period when the college was going through building work, and directed payments to bank accounts controlled by or linked to him, the Serious Fraud Office said in a statement.

He today pleaded guilty to 10 charges of obtaining by deception in the Wellington District Court, and will appear for sentencing in the Upper Hutt District Court on July 13.

"A common flaw when someone who has control over the approval and payment of invoices and has been committing fraud is that gaps can appear in their 'system' when they are not around," SFO director Julie Read said. "In this case, Mr Hancox was away when the concerns were raised and anomalies were uncovered so a specialist financial advisor was called in to work through the school's financial position. This demonstrates the importance of a segregation of duties in this area."


The 54-year-old Upper Hutt College is a Decile 6 school with about 1,100 students, according to its website. In 2010 it started a $20 million property development, building a new sports centre, and demolishing three blocks to replace them with new teaching spaces.

Hancox was the school's executive officer from 1994 to 2014 when he retired, and was responsible for day-to-day management of the college's finances. He had interim name suppression until today.

Hancox was employed as the executive officer at Upper Hutt College for 20 years before retiring in 2014.

Upper Hutt College board chairman Graeme Smith said with the help of the Ministry of Education the school had reviewed and strengthened its financial procedures as a result of the theft.

Mr Smith said the school was comfortable with the charges that had been laid by the SFO and would not be making any further comment while the matter was before the courts.

However, he said the fraud had not detracted from the school's focus on providing high quality teaching and learning programmes and had not impacted on its current financial position.