A former trustee of a Far North Māori trust which helps underprivileged people has been sentenced over stealing almost $1 million from the trust fund.
Margaret Dixon, 59, was sentenced this afternoon in the Auckland District Court by Judge David Sharp.
She was a trustee of Parengarenga 3G (P3G) Trust, which manages a large forest on Māori land in Tai Tokerau District.
Dixon had earlier pleaded guilty to three representative charges, laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), of theft by person in a special relationship.
She was appointed as a trustee along with her brother Stephen Henare and five other people in June 2012, in place of the Māori Trustee.
However, about $1.1m was transferred from the Māori Trustee to P3G Trust bank accounts in August 2012 and was to be used to manage the 512-hectare block for the benefit of its numerous owners.
A further $54,480 was also obtained by the trust from the sale of carbon credits.
But instead of using the money for its intended purpose, Dixon transferred $934,270 of the trust's funds into various other bank accounts, including personal accounts and family trusts.
The court heard today that Dixon's personal gain from the fraud was $130,836.
She said she was not in a position to pay any reparation.
Judge Sharp said Dixon's offending was premeditated and steps were taken to hide the crimes, including lying to the Māori Land Court.
The judge sentenced her to 12 months' home detention.
"I know that it's a gesture only but there will be a reparation payment order made of $5000," Judge Sharp said.
Dixon has some historical but irrelevant criminal convictions.
Henare, Dixon's 60-year-old brother, has pleaded not guilty to six charges of theft by person in special relationship.
It is alleged he assisted Dixon in transferring the money out of the trust's accounts.
Henare also faces a separate charge of intentionally failing to deal with an additional amount of $149,627 in accordance with the P3G Trust Order.
Henare also faces one charge and pleaded not guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice for allegedly providing false information to the Māori Land Court in early 2013 regarding the financial position of the trust.
Dixon and Henare are no longer trustees of the trust.
SFO director Julie Read said while Dixon's co-operation with the SFO resulted in a reduction in her sentence, her offending was serious.
"She was kaitiaki, a guardian, of a forest block that had more than 400 beneficial owners.
"She was required to deal with the property in accordance with the Parengarenga 3G Trust Order. Her fraudulent activity has jeopardised an asset which was meant to benefit generations to come."