A cleaner who stole thousands of dollars from two kindergartens has been asked by a judge: “What the f... were you doing?”
Kareem Riki Tourangi, who has been in trouble with the courts before, was working on getting his life back on track this year. He had distanced himself from a gang, completed addiction and parenting courses and was hoping to restore access to his children.
But earlier this year he was caught stealing from kindies where he worked for a cleaning company. He was sentenced in the Wellington District Court today to 5½ months’ home detention.
As the 28-year-old was leaving the dock, Judge Andrew Nicholls stopped him and acknowledged the hard work he’d been putting into improving his life, before asking the burning question: “What the f... were you doing?
“You put it all at risk and it probably won’t be this outcome again.”
Tourangi didn’t reply.
Between the end of April and the start of May this year, the Wellington man stole a purchase order book from one kindy. Later in the month, he used another purchase order book from another centre to buy about $2070 worth of tools from Bunnings.
In June, he used a second purchase order book to buy an Apple iPhone 14, valued at $2199, from Smiths City in Petone.
Police executed a search warrant weeks after the phone purchase, which was in his possession at the time. He was arrested the same day and charged with theft in a special relationship, failing to give his cellphone passcode to police and two counts of misusing a document for financial gain.
In an explanation to the police, he said his boss was not paying him correctly.
His lawyer, Stephen Parry, said he wanted to convey to the court the story of his client’s life and “the absurdity and the tragedy of putting him back into the prison system again”.
Parry said prison was the wrong place for his client, a man who experienced significant trauma in his childhood.
Tourangi said he and his partner, who is currently serving a sentence of home detention, will have their first unsupervised Christmas with their three youngest children.
Parry argued a prison sentence would derail the work his client had done to reunite with his children and advocated for home detention.
This progress was what prompted the sentencing judge to ask why Tourangi had risked it all.
Police prosecutor Kelly-Anne Cumming opposed the sentence of home detention because of a history of family violence. She said the couple would be sharing the home, both on terms of home detention, and the situation would be “an accident waiting to happen”.
Judge Nicholls acknowledged the situation but said the couple were adults and, if issues arose, Tourangi would be “scrambling” to find a new address, given that the lease was in his partner’s name.
Tourangi’s offending was a breach of his employer’s and the kindergartens’ trust, the judge said, but he commended his efforts to improve his life path.
“It takes courage to know when you need help and to ask for help and accept help.
“I wanted to record how hard you are working to get life back on track here in Wellington.”
Tourangi’s childhood was one no child should have to endure and one in which adults had let him down, Judge Nicholls said.
He encouraged Tourangi and his partner to ask for help if they needed it.
“When life gets hard, you still need to play it lawfully.”
Hazel Osborne is an Open Justice reporter for NZME and is based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington. She joined the Open Justice team at the beginning of 2022, previously working in Whakatāne as a court and crime reporter in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.