A former Whakatane tax agent who defrauded $45,000 from Inland Revenue narrowly escaped a prison sentence when she appeared in Whakatane District Court today.
Heather Jean Trudi Manssen, 38, was sentenced to 12 months' home detention on 79 charges of accessing a computer system for a dishonest purpose.
Between April and July last year, Manssen used her position as a tax agent at Quay Accountants in Whakatane to claim online tax rebates.
She used 12 false names and altered account and mailing addresses to her own and her husband's, making claims of $42,000, of which Inland Revenue paid out $37,000.
Manssen was dismissed from the firm in mid-July but was able to get work at another Whakatane accountancy firm where she filed another six false rebate claims totalling $3745 before Inland Revenue cancelled her access to the online service.
The money was used to buy new televisions, DVD recorders and a lounge suite, along with servicing their mortgage and other debts.
Crown prosecutor Catherine Harold sought a prison sentence for the offending , arguing the aggravating factors of premeditation, abuse of trust and the significant amount of money involved.
Ms Harold said a significant aggravating feature was that after being dismissed, Manssen had gained further employment and continued to offend.
She opposed a sentence of home detention.
Manssen's lawyer Roger Gowing argued that home detention could be imposed.
He said Manssen took full responsibility for her actions, which had already had a significant impact on her life - and her husband's.
"She has brought down everything she had, or would aspire to," Mr Gowing said.
She had lost her job, her career prospects and her home, and also had big debts.
Mr Gowing said a sentence of home detention would enable Manssen to get back into work and start repaying the debt to Inland Revenue.
Judge Louis Bidois decided to give Manssen a chance on home detention, but sentenced her to 240 hours' community work and ordered her to repay the $42,801.38 debt to Inland Revenue.