Took $26,000 in beneficiary payments

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A former Ministry of Development case manager who funnelled more than $26,000 of beneficiary payments into her own bank accounts has been sentenced to home detention.

Joanne Marie Dodunski (38), unemployed, appeared in the Alexandra District Court on May 17 for sentencing on 12 charges of accessing a computer system for a dishonest purpose.

Dodunski, who carried out the offending while working in the ministry’s office in Papakura, Auckland, relocated to the Lindis Valley after her offending was uncovered.

Judge Michael Turner said the defendant was authorised to process payments for beneficiaries, including special needs grants and renewable assistance.

Between April 2019 and August 2020, she made payments totalling $26,090.88 into personal bank accounts, or directly to suppliers to pay household expenses.

She tagged the payments to the accounts of 12 welfare beneficiaries, including those of friends and neighbours.

Her offending was motivated by her husband losing his job, making her the sole income-earner as well as main carer of their children.

Dodunski also claimed she needed the money to buy methamphetamine, which “gave her energy” when she was exhausted.

“This was a loss to the state, every taxpayer in this country,” Judge Turner said.

The offending was “sophisticated, deliberate, calculated and lengthy”, and a huge breach of her employer’s trust. It was further aggravated by her initial denial of the charges.

The only mitigating factor was her previous clean record.

He sentenced her to nine months’ home detention, and ordered her to repay all the money, $800 immediately and the balance at $40 a week.