$1.2m fraudster ordered to repay half

A fraudster who siphoned off more than $1.2 million from a Wellington Catholic society has been ordered to pay back half of what she stole.

Susan Terri Hagai admitted defrauding the 145-year-old Hibernian Catholic Benefit Society and its credit union over six years between 2004 and 2010.

She was sentenced by a Wellington District Court judge in October 2011 to four years and two months in prison.

However, sentencing judge Susan Thomas did not order Hagai to repay the $1,242,750 she stole from the society because there were no assets to be sold.

The court was told Hagai had spent the money on her children's education and her family's lifestyle, including travel and sporting events.

The Hibernian Catholic Society then turned to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) in a bid to recover some of the funds.

Details of three years of unauthorised transactions were put before the authority as evidence.

The ERA was told Hagai was employed by the society as an administration and accounting officer between 1994 and 2010.

Among her duties was to administer the society's bank accounts and funds on behalf of its mostly elderly members, who relied on the society for loans and life, medical and house insurance.

Hagai was found to have transferred $574,000 from the society's accounts into accounts belonging to her and her husband between May 2007 and June 2010.

"She had no defence for taking the money," the ERA said.

The authority ordered her to repay the society $574,000, as well as $3695.61 in interest and $2071.56 in costs.

Commenting after her conviction in 2011, Hibernian Catholic Society president Mike McBride said the society would continue, but its credit union had been forced into liquidation.

The 458 credit union members - who had put money aside for holidays, new cars, medical treatment or "other hopes and dreams" - were told they would lose about half of their savings.

- By Matthew Backhouse of APNZ

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