A former SAS soldier has been kicked out of the Defence Force
today and jailed for four months after conning Army bosses
into paying for a weekend away with his partner.
Corporal Theodore Laveta Marama, 53, pleaded guilty this
morning to 11 charges at a court martial hearing at Burnham
The regular force soldier, who served with the SAS in the
1980s, was a respected physical trainer at the Youth
Development Unit (South) at Burnham.
But he suffered a major fall from grace when he fabricated a
New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association symposium in
Wellington and reclaimed $935 for the Army-paid trip where he
spent a weekend with his partner.
The father-of-two then lied in emails, forms and officials
documents to cover up his fraud which included flights,
accommodation and meals.
The court martial also heard he falsified fitness tests for
him and four comrades.
And without authorisation from his superiors, he brought in
an external mental health agency with links to his partner to
do work at the Life Change programme at his unit.
When he was suspended from duty in March last year as an
inquiry into his activities was carried out, Corporal Marama
breached orders by travelling to Australia where he was out
of contact for a week.
At the court martial today, he pleaded guilty to falsifying
official documents and statements, failing to comply with
written orders, disobeying a lawful command and acting in a
manner likely to prejudice service discipline contrary to the
Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971.
Defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger accepted his dismissal "from
Her Majesty's service'' was inevitable.
Reparation of $1704, of which $935 was to fund his November
2012 Wellington trip and $769 to the unauthorised external
agency, has been fully repaid.
Army prosecutor Captain Matt McGrath read a victim impact
statement from the commanding officer of the Youth
Development Unit (South).
Given the nature of the unit's work with at-risk young
people, building trust and providing positive role models is
paramount, the court martial heard.
Corporal Marama's actions meant that he could never work
there again, the commanding officer said.
His frauds affected the unit's efficiency and the
effectiveness, caused friction, and had a negative effect on
staff morale and confidence.
Engaging the outside agency to do work at the unit,
potentially put the youngsters "at a greater risk", Captain
After two hours of deliberations today, a panel of three
military members, along with Judge Duncan Harvey, decided on
Corporal Marama's sentence.
The judge said his crimes did "enormous harm'' and were "an
appalling breach of trust''.
"Over the years you have served the New Zealand military
extremely well,'' the judge said, adding: "Your fall from
grace has been quite dramatic.''
Corporal Marama signed up for the first of two distinguished
Army stints as a rifleman in 1980.
After a posting to Singapore, he soon completed a gruelling
SAS selection course before becoming a fully engaged member.
But in 1987, he opted out, and spent the rest of his career
with the New Zealand Army Physical Training Corps (NZAPTC),
rising through the ranks to become Warrant Officer class 2.
He ran officer cadet school programmes, staff development
courses, and was safety advisor on the popular 'Clash of the
Codes' TV show for three years.
After retiring from the Army in 2001, he became a physical
trainer at the Royal New Zealand Police College at Porirua.
He assisted new migrants with English language courses, and
ran fitness sessions and community activities after school
for at-risk youths.
Ms Bulger described him as a "shy and retiring'' person, but
one who has "clearly committed himself to his work and the
communities he's lived in''.
"[But] he understands he has almost completely eroded the
good work he's done in the Army and in various communities
around the country.''
He also has history of fraud.
In 2008, he was convicted at District Court on charges of
theft by a person in a special relationship and for
dishonestly using a document for pecuniary advantage and
sentenced to 200 hours of community work and community
He rejoined the Army in 2010.