A police staffer spent more than a year stealing lost property handed in at the station by honest members of the public.

By the time a search warrant was executed at the Henderson home of 27-year-old Hee Sung Choi in July, he had pilfered more than 20 cell phones, four laptops and two digital cameras.

Most of the phones had been sold to a secondhand shop for a fraction of their worth and some items had gone through online auction site Trade Me, but officers found enough to convince them of the employee's guilty.

The defendant later admitted charges of theft and theft by a person in a special relationship and was sentenced at Auckland District Court to two months community detention this afternoon.


Choi finally landed a job as a non-sworn police officer at the start of 2014, after volunteering for three years.

He was given the role of file management support officer at Auckland Central police station, dealing with receiving, documenting and storing property brought in by members of the public.

But a couple of months into the job, Choi began stealing that property.

His offending unraveled when a taxi driver handed in a phone that he had found in his cab.

Choi took the Samsung phone home with him and noted on the police computer system that the item had been claimed by the owner.

Days later, however, the real owner went to the station and was puzzled when counter staff told her the phone appeared to have been returned.

Choi brought the phone back and changed the database entry but it was too late.

When officers reviewed CCTV footage, it clearly depicted the defendant putting several cell phones in his pocket on multiple occasions.

Police prosecutor John Pitcon, said the offending was a huge breach of trust and would inherently affect the police's reputation in the eyes of the public.

"The public expect when things are handed over that people have lost, that the police will handle them with integrity," Judge Claire Ryan said.

Though the value of the goods was not great, she said the time frame of 15 months was significant and the blow to the police as a whole was "hard to quantify".

The court heard how the offending came against a background of financial hardship.

Choi had accrued debts of $20,000 on his wife's tertiary study and immigration issues and when they broke up after a few months of marriage he shouldered the burden.

Judge Ryan spoke of his "difficult background" growing up in South Korea with a father with mental-health problems before moving to New Zealand with his mother as a 12-year-old.

Choi left home after a bad relationship with his step-father and struggled with his studies, starting but not completing two degrees and a diploma.

Now all that was left, the judge said, was the support of the church.

He was now living with a pastor and had recently found work as a labourer, which meant he could pay the reparation of $1507 at $50 a week.

Choi was also sentenced to six months supervision, which will see him undertake any counselling probation sees necessary.

His two-month community detention sentence will see him restricted to a curfew of 7pm to 6am.