Man jailed, woman sentenced to home detention after ripping off the COVID wage subsidy

It's part of a Ministry of Social Development crackdown on subsidy misuse.
It's part of a Ministry of Social Development crackdown on subsidy misuse. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

A man has been jailed for more than two years and a woman sentenced to home detention for ripping off the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy scheme.  

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) announced the latest sentences on Tuesday as it continues its prosecution programme aimed at "providing assurance that those who received wage subsidy payments were entitled to them". 

So far, MSD says more than 38 people have been brought before the courts for wage subsidy misuse.  

In a statement released by MSD, they said 40-year-old Uatesoni Filimoehala, also known as Watson Filimoehala, appeared in the Auckland District Court on September 29 after admitting to four charges of dishonestly taking or using a document. 

Auckland-based Filimoehala has been jailed for 27 months after creating a company to defraud more than $120,000 through the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy scheme.  

MSD said Filimoehala was bankrupt at the time and registered 42 Construction Limited with the Companies Office on April 17, 2020, not long after the scheme was introduced. 

"He went on to submit six fraudulent wage subsidy applications for 42 Construction, with the first being submitted only a few hours after the company was registered," MSD said.  

Three of Filimoehala's applications were successful and totaled to $126,532.80, which was paid into his bank account.  

Filimoehala also unsuccessfully applied for a further $42,491.20. 

Checks by MSD found none of the employees listed in his applications worked for 42 Construction. 

"Some were actually working elsewhere and receiving wage subsidies for that employment," MSD said.  

"There was also no evidence to suggest 42 Construction was trading at the time the fraudulent applications were made." 

A Katikati woman has also been sentenced to seven months' home detention after admitting five charges of dishonest use of a document in connection with the COVID-19 wage subsidy.  

On September 27, 34-year-old Emma Martinson was sentenced in the Tauranga District Court.  

"Alongside the sentence of home detention, Judge Louis Bidois ordered her to pay $14,059.20 reparation. Martinson paid $2000 towards this prior to her sentencing," MSD said.

MSD said between April 9, 2020 and April 8 2022, the 34-year-old dishonestly submitted 12 applications to MSD for wage subsidy and Leave Support Scheme payments. 

"At no time during this period was she eligible to receive support." 

Three of Martinson's applications were successful, totaling to $14,059.20.  

"After receiving the funds, Martinson made several large cash withdrawals from various ATMs over the following days." 

MSD said the total amount of wage subsidy funds Martinson unsuccessfully applied for was $41,662.80. 

"Eight of the wage subsidy applications were sole trader applications, with seven of these submitted in Martinson's name, and one in the name of 'Spicknspan'. At the time, Martinson was not working as a sole trader." 

MSD added two further wage subsidy applications were made in Martinson's name, listing her as an employer when she was not. She also submitted two applications in the names of two other people who had no knowledge of them. 

"There is no record that any of the wage subsidy funds were ever used to pay any listed employees."