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COVID tax fraud ends in home detention

An Auckland woman who tried to get nearly $60,000 in COVID relief money was sentenced to 11 months home detention when she appeared for sentence this month.

Samantha Paul applied for Small Business Cashflow scheme loans (SBCS) for three unrelated taxpayers, one for her own company, and one in her own name, when she knew she was not entitled to any of the money.

Paul also illegally accessed myIR accounts without authority.

The three unrelated taxpayers were all clients of a tax agency where Paul previously worked in 2018 and 2019. She noted and kept their myIR login details while she worked there.

Paul applied for $59,000 COVID relief money and was paid out just over $47,000 before her deceit was discovered. Nearly $12,000 has been recovered. The money was paid into her accounts and those of an associate, Jason Gray.

‘This was a calculated offending and inherently pre-meditated,’ said IRD in a press release.

‘The Small Business Cashflow scheme was rolled out on a ‘high trust’ model so small business owners who were feeling the pinch because of the pandemic could access funds quickly. Paul took advantage of that trust.

‘This was straightforward theft from the community. Defrauding IR is not a victimless crime but a criminal activity which ultimately affects the whole of society and undermines the integrity of the tax system.

‘Inland Revenue staff spent significant time investigating the fraud. The three unrelated taxpayers for which the loan applications were made confirmed they had not applied for or received any money.’

The offending occurred between May 18, 2020, and January 2022. Applications for the SBCS opened on May 12, 2020.

Paul received an end sentence of 23 months imprisonment which the judge commuted to a sentence of 11 months home detention, and noting that Paul has a young child in her care. The Judge warned that if Paul reoffended during the HD sentence, she would be sent to prison.

Jason Gray was sentenced to 20 months in prison in May 2023 on charges of dishonestly using two SBCS application forms to get nearly $14,000. He was also sentenced on forgery and breach of home detention.

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