Five leaders of the Samoan Assembly of God Church in Manukau have been sentenced to community detention and ordered to repay the money they received when they made false donation tax credit (DTC) claims to the tune of nearly $170,000.
The Church is registered as a charitable organisation which means one-third of donations made to it may be claimed back by producing a receipt and lodging the claim with Inland Revenue.
Church pastor Naseri Masani and his wife Tasi Afuie, Church Treasurer Logotaeao Pace, along with Sunday school leader Faamanuia Mataafa, and her husband Church Secretary Aneterea Mino, were all charged with using applications for donation tax credits with intent to obtain a pecuniary advantage.
As well as overclaiming DTC for themselves, the five asked other individuals, usually members of their congregation, for personal information, including their IRD numbers. Donation receipts using those details, with false donation amounts, were issued mostly by the Treasurer Logotaeao Pace, or otherwise by the Church Pastor Naseri Masani.
Receipts were then used by one of the five to lodge DTC claims with Inland Revenue, requesting refunds be deposited into one of their own bank accounts.
Sometimes a false DTC claim would be submitted to Inland Revenue in the name of a person who had no idea a DTC claim was made.
The integrity of the tax system is an important focus for Inland Revenue and we will use all available options where dishonesty like this has led to losses for New Zealanders.
The Defendants were sentenced on March 8 in the Manukau District Court.
Logotaeao Pace – the Church Treasurer – plead guilty to deception, issuing 12 false and inflated donation receipts to other church members, and dishonestly using applications for DTC, intending to obtain refunds.
Pace, either by herself or with the other church officers, was involved in 53 fraudulent applications for DTC refunds, totalling $122,367. She received $34,366 personally and $28,531 was paid to other church members. None of the money has been repaid.
A further $28,531 was also paid to other Church members who used the inflated donation receipts issued by Pace.
During an interview with Inland Revenue, she admitted making the false donation tax credit claims was her idea but said donors knew that the receipts she gave them were false.
Pace said she knew what she was doing was wrong but did it for “love of money”.
She was sentenced to the maximum possible 6 months community detention and 250 hours community work. She was also ordered to pay $700 reparation within 14 days and $20 a week for the next 5 years.
Naseri Masani - Pastor of the church - plead guilty to dishonestly using 19 applications for DTC, intending to obtain refunds.
Each year, from 2012 to 2016, he applied for refunds for his personal donations to the Church. Each application falsely inflated the amount donated so he’d get back more money.
Naseri Masani was also involved in false DTC claims for his wife, an adult son, and another church member. In total he personally received $21,447 and none has been repaid.
He was sentenced to 6 months community detention and 200 hours community work. He was ordered to pay $600 reparation within 14 days and $20 a week for 5 years.
Tasi Afuie – the pastor’s wife and the Women’s Fellowship leader – plead guilty to dishonestly using 10 applications for DTC, intending to obtain refunds.
From 2012 to 2016 Tasi Afuie made donation tax credit claims. Each donation amount was for more than she gave. She was also involved in filing false DTC claims in the names of other people. She personally received $25,978 as a result of the false claims.
She also admitted Working for Families fraud by not telling IR she had married and was living with her husband, a situation which affected her WfF entitlements. She received an additional $22,417 which she was not entitled to. None of the $48,395 received by her has been repaid.
She was sentenced to 6 months community detention and 100 hours community work. She was ordered to pay $600 reparation within 14 days and $20 a week for 5 years.
Faamanuia Mataafa (aka Faamanuia Mino) – the Church Sunday School leader – plead guilty to dishonestly using 25 applications for DTC, intending to obtain refunds.
Each claim stated an inflated donation amount and attached falsely inflated Church donation receipts as supporting evidence.
Analysis of her bank accounts show that the refunds received were spent on personal items, travel, and debt repayment.
She was sentenced to 4 months community detention and ordered to pay $100 a week for 5 years.
Aneterea Mino – the Church Secretary and husband of Faamanuia – plead guilty to dishonestly using 27 applications for DTC, intending to obtain refunds.
From 2012 to 2016, he and his wife made similar personal DTC claims and he was involved with filing false DTC claims for other people. Sometimes personal tax details were obtained without the person knowing or being told why.
Mino and Mataafa received $58,842 into their joint accounts. $5,000 has been repaid.
Mino was sentenced to 4 months community detention and ordered to pay reparations of $150 per week for the next 3 years.