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Tauranga woman gets 3 years 7 months in jail for elaborate tax fraud

A Tauranga woman who created an elaborate scheme to defraud taxpayers of nearly $3 million has been sentenced to prison for three years and seven months.

Karina Charmaine Knedler, 31, was sentenced today in Tauranga District Court on 19 charges of using a document, and using forged documents. The charges mostly related to false GST refund claims for several fictitious businesses which never actually traded. These offences resulted in her receiving more than $1.1 million in refunds.

Inland Revenue Group Manager Investigations and Advice Patrick Goggin said Knedler created an extremely complex scheme to rip-off taxpayers. During 2015 and 2016, Knedler filed numerous faIse GST returns on behalf of Fitonez Limited, claiming a refund was due.

In total, 21 fraudulent GST returns were filed, and the defendant provided forged invoices and bank statements to support the claims. Some of the refund claims related to fictitious property transactions in the millions of dollars.

“Knedler was calculating, devious, and quite relentless in her pursuit of money to which she wasn’t entitled,” Mr Goggin said. “Even when returns were being questioned, she produced numerous forged documents and conflicting explanations to back what became an increasingly elaborate web of deceit.”

Even while Knedler was being investigated in respect of Fitonez Limited, she commenced a series of new fraudulent offending relating to other fictitious companies set up using different personal identities.

“This defendant’s behaviour clearly showed brazen disregard for the tax system. She thought it was fine to repeatedly try to rip off millions in taxpayers’ money that goes towards funding vital social services.

“She used the money she received to fund overseas travel, construction of a residential property and costs associated with setting up her business activities, among other things. In short, she showed utter contempt for honest New Zealanders who do the right thing and pay their fair share of tax.”

In addition to the GST offences, Knedler also committed fraud by making false Working for Families tax credits claims, involving the use of a forged birth certificate, while married to and living with her children’s father. This meant she received nearly $70,000 she wasn’t entitled to for children that were in her care since 2010.

Inland Revenue will be exploring every available action to recover money Knedler had stolen from taxpayers, Mr Goggin said.

Knedler had her sentence reduced by four months on appeal. However, she subsequently pleaded guilty to new charges for which she was sentenced to a further 12 months in prison.