Auckland woman sentenced to house arrest after claiming over $66,000 in false refunds

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The woman falsely claimed GST and income tax refunds. Photo credit: File

A woman has been ordered to repay more than $60,000 to Inland Revenue and sentenced to 11 months home detention after falsely claiming GST and income tax refunds.

Lute Tonga Vailolo from South Auckland pleaded guilty to a representative charge of providing false information, which led to the refund claims, says Inland Revenue (IR). Vailolo was sentenced on Thursday in Manukau District Court. 

Between June 2016 and January 2017 the woman filed, or assisted others in filing, 19 false GST or income tax returns. Some of her offending involved the Akoteu Nasaleti Trust and the Tongan Community Church of Hephzibah, run by her father and six uncles.

Vailolo applied for refunds on behalf of the two organisations, as well as someone who lived with her, other acquaintances and various contractors or demolition firms.

"Vailolo was trying to get money she knew she wasn't entitled to," said IR spokesperson Tony Morris.

According to the IR, Vailolo advertised her services to friends and family members as well as on social media. 

"She charged fees for preparing some of the returns and in several cases she changed people's bank account numbers registered with IR to her own account number for claims to be paid to," says Morris.

One $15,641.48 claim was released by IR into the Tongan Community Church's bank account - the account number was then switched to Vailolo's prior to the second refund. The second refund claim, totalling $51,498.26, was not released.

Morris confirms that not all refunds Vailolo applied for were paid out. 

The total of her false refund claims totalled $212,785.87. 

"It was only due to IR investigation and intervention that the amounts paid out were limited to $66,605.01... Vailolo was ripping off the tax system, taking the money needed for community services and facilities," says Morris.

She has been ordered to pay $66,605.01 in reparation.