School administrator gets home detention for fraud

Published

A former school administrator has been sentenced to 10 months of home detention and 150 hours of community work for defrauding a Māori immersion school of approximately $250,000. Kim Symes (51) of Auckland was also ordered to pay $5000 in reparation.

Ms Symes was sentenced today in the Manukau District Court on six fraud charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office. Ms Symes pleaded guilty in September to charges of ‘Obtaining by deception’, ‘Using forged documents’ and four charges of ‘Dishonestly using a document’. The charges relate to 293 individual transactions and 27 forged documents.

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o te Tonga o Hokianga employed Ms Symes as a support staff administrator for 11 years from April 2006 to July 2017. In this role, the defendant was responsible for the core financial duties for the school. She was responsible for ensuring the school’s expenditure was supported by purchase order forms, receipts or other documentation, and that it was accurately coded in the financial accounts.

The Director of the SFO, Julie Read, said, “The SFO is committed to preventing public sector fraud and corruption through investigating and prosecuting the misuse of public funds. Ms Symes stole public funds to support her lifestyle, which included a gambling habit. There was a significant breach of trust, resulting in government-funded education resources being diverted away from the Kura’s students.”

ENDS

Issued by

Henry Acland
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550

Note to editors

Background to investigation

Kim Symes (51) pleaded guilty to ‘Dishonestly using a document’ (x4) ‘Obtaining by deception’ (x1), ‘Using forged documents’(x1) in relation to her employment with the Maori immersion school, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o te Tonga o Hokianga.

The Northland school has been operating since 2002 and has a role of about 100 students ranging from Year 1-13. Ms Symes was employed as support staff administrator by the school on a part-time basis from April 2006 to July 2017. In this role, she maintained the financial records and had full access to the school’s bank accounts and accounting records. Her responsibilities included preparing monthly financial reports, paying accounts, preparing financial information for audit, keeping accurate financial books and managing staff salary and payroll issues.

Crimes Act offences

228(1)(b) Dishonestly using a document

(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who, with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration,—

(a) dishonestly and without claim of right, takes or obtains any document; or

(b) dishonestly and without claim of right, uses or attempts to use any document.

(2) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who, without reasonable excuse, sells, transfers, or otherwise makes available any document knowing that—

(a) the document was, dishonestly and without claim of right, taken, obtained, or used; and

(b) the document was dealt with in the manner specified in paragraph (a) with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration.

 

240(1) Obtaining by deception

(1) Every one is guilty of obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception who, by any deception and without claim of right,—

(a) obtains ownership or possession of, or control over, any property, or any privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration, directly or indirectly; or

(b) in incurring any debt or liability, obtains credit; or

(c) induces or causes any other person to deliver over, execute, make, accept, endorse, destroy, or alter any document or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage; or

(d) causes loss to any other person.

(1A) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who, without reasonable excuse, sells, transfers, or otherwise makes available any document or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage knowing that, by deception and without claim of right, the document or thing was, or was caused to be, delivered, executed, made, accepted, endorsed, or altered.

(2) In this section, deception means—

(a) a false representation, whether oral, documentary, or by conduct, where the person making the representation intends to deceive any other person and—

(i) knows that it is false in a material particular; or

(ii) is reckless as to whether it is false in a material particular; or

(b) an omission to disclose a material particular, with intent to deceive any person, in circumstances where there is a duty to disclose it; or

(c) a fraudulent device, trick, or stratagem used with intent to deceive any person.

 

257(1) Using forged documents

(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years who, knowing a document to be forged,—

(a) uses the document to obtain any property, privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration; or

(b) uses, deals with, or acts upon the document as if it were genuine; or

(c) causes any other person to use, deal with, or act upon it as if it were genuine.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a document made or altered outside New Zealand in a manner that would have amounted to forgery if the making or alteration had been done in New Zealand is to be regarded as a forged document.

About the SFO

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act.

The SFO is the lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious or complex financial crime, including bribery and corruption.

The presence of an agency dedicated to white collar crime is integral to New Zealand’s reputation for transparency, integrity, fair-mindedness and low levels of corruption.

This work contributes to a productive and prosperous New Zealand and the SFO’s collaborative efforts with international partners also reduce the serious harm that corrupt business practices do to the global economy.

The SFO has two operational teams: the Evaluation and Intelligence team and the Investigations team.

The SFO operates under two sets of investigative powers.

Part 1 of the SFO Act provides that it may act where the Director “has reason to suspect that an investigation into the affairs of any person may disclose serious or complex fraud.”

Part 2 of the SFO Act provides the SFO with more extensive powers where: “…the Director has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence involving serious or complex fraud may have been committed…”

In considering whether a matter involves serious or complex fraud, the Director may, among other things, have regard to:

  • the suspected nature and consequences of the fraud and/or;
  • the suspected scale of the fraud and/or;
  • the legal, factual and evidential complexity of the matter and/or;
  • any relevant public interest considerations.

The SFO’s Annual Report 2019 sets out its achievements for the past year, while the Integrated Statement of Strategic Intent 2016-2020 sets out the SFO’s strategic goals and performance standards. Both are available online at www.sfo.govt.nz

The SFO Twitter feed is @SFO_NZ