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Samoan church leaders in New Zealand sentenced for $170,000 tax fraud

Manukau District Court building
Source: Radio New Zealand

Auckland, NEW ZEALAND — Five leaders of the Samoan Assembly of God Church in Manukau have been sentenced to community detention for defrauding the tax system out of nearly $170,000. This according to reporting in the New Zealand Herald.

“Church pastor Naseri Masani and his wife Tasi Afuie, treasurer Logotaeao Pace, along with Sunday school leader Faamanuia Mataafa (aka Mino) and her husband church secretary Aneterea Mino were sentenced at the Manukau District Court yesterday.

“They were charged and convicted of over claiming and making false donation tax credit (DTC) claims.

“Donors can claim one-third of their donations to the charity by lodging their donation receipts with Inland Revenue.”

According to the report, the five leaders asked members of their congregation for their IRD numbers and then created false donation receipts and used them to file DTC claims, and notified the Inland Revenue to deposit the refunds into their own bank accounts.

"Sometimes a false DTC claim would be submitted to Inland Revenue in the name of a person who had no idea a DTC claim was made," according to an Inland Revenue media release earlier this week.


The NZ Herald report notes that Logotaeao Pacem the church treasurer, admitted to being the ringleader. She “admitted to Inland Revenue that the false donation tax credit claims was her idea, but donors knew the receipts she gave them were false,” she said.

She knew it was wrong but did it for "love of money," she said.

“She pleaded guilty to issuing 12 false and inflated donation receipts to other church members, and dishonestly using DTC applications to get refunds.

“The 53 fraudulent DTC claims totaled $122,367 in refunds — out of which she received $34,366 personally and $28,531 was paid to other church members.

“She was sentenced to the maximum possible sentence of six months' community detention and 250 hours of community work.

“She was also ordered to pay $700 reparation within 14 days and $20 a week for the next five years.

The pastor of the church — Naseri Masani —  pleaded guilty to using 19 DTC applications to obtain funds dishonestly.

“Every year from 2012 to 2016, he applied for refunds for his personal donations to the church, falsely inflating the amount donated and receiving $21,447 in total.

“He was also involved in false claims for his wife, adult son, and another church member.

“He was sentenced to six months' community detention and 200 hours' community work.

“He was also ordered to pay $600 reparation within 14 days and $20 a week for five years.”

Tasi Afuie, who is the pastor’s wife and also the church Women's Fellowship leader, pleaded guilty to making 10 dishonest DTC claims for which she received $25,978 in refunds.

“She also committed fraud by not telling IR she was married and living with her husband, which resulted in her receiving $22,417 of Working for Families entitlements.

“She was sentenced to six months community detention and 100 hours community work, and ordered to pay $600 reparation within 14 days and $20 a week for five years.”

Sunday school leader Faamanuia Mataafa made 25 false DTC applications, spending the refunds on personal items, travel, and debt repayment, according to her bank statements as noted on the Inland Revenue media release.

“She was sentenced to four months community detention and ordered to pay $100 a week for five years.

“Her husband and church secretary Mino made similar personal DTC claims and was also involved in filing false claims for other people, sometimes getting personal tax details from them without letting them know.

“The couple received $58,842 into their joint accounts, but have repaid $5000.

“Mino was sentenced to four months community detention and ordered to pay reparations of $150 per week for the next three years.

"The integrity of the tax system is an important focus for Inland Revenue and we will use all available options where dishonesty like this has led to losses for New Zealanders," the IR release said.