A former Ministry of Transport senior manager who was jailed for stealing three quarters of a million dollars of taxpayers' money had earlier been convicted of forgery.

Joanne Harrison was jailed in February 2017 for three years and seven months after pleading guilty to three charges of dishonestly taking or using a document.

The Serious Fraud Office case found she had defrauded the ministry of $726,000 while employed as a general manager, a role which authorised her to spend public funds.

Over the course of more than three years Harrison made false invoices to three fake entities to misappropriate the funds into her own accounts. She used the money to pay off credit card debts and pay a mortgage on a house.


Auditor-General Martin Matthews resigned over the scandal.

However, in an Auckland District Court judgment obtained by the Herald, Harrison was found to have committed an earlier fraud under a different name.

In July 2007, Harrison - who was then known as Joanne Sharp - was convicted and sentenced to 300 hours of community service for forgery, using a forged document, altering a document, using an altered document, and obtaining by deception.

Harrison's 2007 charges came while she was a senior manager at Tower Insurance, however, her name - Joanne Sharp - and the link to the earlier offending was suppressed.

"I saw - and still see the present [offending] as involving a one-off situation," Judge Roderick Joyce said in the decision to suppress Joanne Sharp frauds.

"Suffice it to say that in my judgment the possibility of reoffending is in no way on any kind of cards."

When Harrison's offending at the Ministry of Transport [MoT] came to light, however, it was reported in several news stories that she was also known under different names, including Joanne Sharp.

Following a media challenge last month, Judge Dale Clarkson revoked the suppression order on May 27 in the Auckland District Court.


"In the present matter, the significant subsequent [MoT] offending, of a similar nature, demonstrated Ms Sharp's deliberate dishonesty, over many years, in contrast to the picture painted of her at the suppression hearing as an unwell woman, who had inexplicable offended and was highly unlikely to offend again," the judge said.

"Ms Sharp, given the opportunity of a fresh start, after completing her sentence in 2007/8, went on to immediately reoffend, and in a manner which involved her wrongly taking public funds, over a lengthy period.

"I am satisfied that by continuing to offend as a fraudster, the subject, Ms Sharp/Harrison lost all rights to claim the protection of the order for rehabilitative purposes ... What is left is the right of the public to finality in litigation. When that is weighed against the public interest in open justice, and the right of prospective employers to know of her previous offending under both names, the balance tips firmly in favour of revocation of the suppression order."

After completing her community service for the 2007 sentence, Harrison also travelled to Australia for work and allegedly committed further frauds, the Herald has earlier reported.

Harrison's Parole Board decisions show there was an "outstanding warrant in Australia for offending".

Harrison told the board, however, that she "has no idea what that relates to".

It is understood the Australian charges remain unresolved.

Harrison was also later charged with benefit fraud in September 2017, over allegations from late 2008 and early 2009.

In October 2017 she pleaded guilty in the Kaikohe District Court to two charges of using a document for a pecuniary advantage and one charge of obtaining a benefit by deceit.

A further two months' were added to her prison term.

In March last year the Parole Board refused her an early release from prison, but after a further hearing on December 6 Harrison was deemed fit for parole after she was served with a deportation notice.

Harrison did not appeal the deportation notice was sent back to the United Kingdom in January.

The Parole Board's decision, however, stated there was "residual concern" for the fraudster.

It noted that the deportation notice referred to allegations that she fraudulently created material to obtain her New Zealand visa in March 2006 in the skilled migrant category.

"Ms Harrison said that she did misstate her previous role in her employment in the United Kingdom," the parole decision read.

"She also said that the letters of support were from real people and were real letters but they had not gone through the correct authorisations to provide those letters for her."

Despite having used "several different names to commit her fraudulent activities", Harrison intended to use her real name when she returned to the UK, the parole decision said.

Harrison is banned from ever returning to New Zealand.