Woman given home detention for false tax claims

1:04 pm on 27 August 2019

A South Auckland woman has been sentenced to 11 months home detention for making false tax claims.

Exterior signage at the Manukau District Court

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Lute Tonga Vailolo has also been ordered to repay $66,605.01 to Inland Revenue.

She plead guilty in the Manukau District Court on 22 August to a representative charge of providing false information which led to the refund claims.

Vailolo is the daughter of one of the seven brothers who run the Akoteu Nasaleti Trust and the Tongan Community Church of Hephzibah in New Zealand.

Some of the offending involved those two organisations.

Vailolo filed or assisted others in filing, 19 GST or income tax returns between June 2016 and January 2017, that were false.

Inland Revenue (IR) said she advertised her services to friends and families and on social media.

She charged fees for preparing some of the returns and in several cases changed people's bank account numbers registered with Inland Revenue to her own account number for the claims to be paid into, it said.

IR spokesperson Tony Morris said Vailolo was trying to get money she knew she was not entitled to.

"She applied for refunds on behalf of the Tongan Community Church, the Akoteu Nasaleti Trust, someone who lived with her, various contractors or demolition firms, and other people she knew."

"One claim for $15,641.48 was released by IR into the Tongan Community Church's bank account. The account number was then changed to Vailolo's account number for the second refund to be paid in to, but the second refund claim of $51,498.26 was not released by IR," he said.

"Not all of the refunds she applied for were paid out - the total of false refund claims amounted to $212,785.87. It was only due to [an] IR investigation and intervention that the amounts paid out were limited to $66,605.01."

"By making these false refund claims Vailolo was ripping off the tax system and taking the money needed for community services and facilities," Mr Morris said.

She was ordered to pay reparation of $50 per week, plus $500 already paid at sentencing.