An Auckland churchgoer who admitted fraud charges after gambling away $252,510 fellow parishioners thought they had donated for his medical treatment has been jailed for two years three months.

Gerard Francis Marychurch, 40, was sentenced in Auckland District Court today after admitting 13 charges of obtaining money by deception, eight involving sums of more than $1000. The amounts ranged from $300 to $145,140. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of theft by a person in a special relationship.

Marychurch was also ordered to pay $50,000 reparation to his victims, to be paid in weekly instalments after he is released from prison.

Sentencing Marychurch, Judge Nicola Mathers said his actions were worse than those of a common thief.

"You played on the generosity and religious beliefs of parishioners by deceiving them that you had a serious illness which was terminal.

"Fortunately for you, the very nature of their generosity has been largely continued in their approach to your sentencing," Judge Mathers said.

"I accept that you have a gambling addiction, which has led you further and further into dishonesty," she added.

Marychurch had shown remorse, but Judge Mathers questioned how genuine this was.

He had repaid a small portion of the money, but $233,990 was still outstanding.

Judge Mathers said there was a strong need to denounce Marychurch's conduct and hold him accountable for his actions.

"The need to denounce your conduct outweighs the rehabilitation aspects, because of the level of your dishonesty, the period of time which you committed the offences and the religious beliefs of the people you preyed upon.

"There was a significant sum of money involved, and the victims were vulnerable people," she said.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Paul Wightman said a lot of the victims were in their 70s, so there was less likelihood of them getting their money back.

"The crimes before the court involved real people. He (Marychurch) had to lie to them face to face. Their Christian values were put to the test, as they believed they were helping someone in their hour of need."

Adam Couchman, representing Marychurch, said imprisonment was inevitable.

"His offending was to feed an out of control gambling addiction, which had been re-ignited from his days working in the hospitality industry.

"He had a relatively minor health scare when he had swollen lymph glands which was treated successfully.

"In this case, this is an addiction which the court has seen time and time again. This is a man who is in the clutches of a disease, and he could not get out of the cycle of offending," Mr Couchman said.

He added that Marychurch had received continued counselling and rehabilitation for gambling. He had also attended three separate restorative justice conferences with some of his victims.

Marychurch said he needed cancer treatment and parishioners at a number of churches collected money on his behalf, between January 2003 and October 2009.

- NZPA