Mava Haropula hides his face.
Mava Haropula hides his face.

New claim delays embezzlement case

A FORMER financial manager at the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre, who has pleaded guilty to embezzling $67,000 from the non-profit organisation, said he gave thousands of dollars to a widow for her children’s school fees.

Mava Haropula, 40, a Papua New Guinea national, was due to be sentenced in the Lismore District Court on three fraud charges last Friday.

But Judge James Black delayed sentencing following Haropula’s claim about where some of the stolen money went.

Despite Haropula saying he wanted the matter finalised that afternoon, Judge Black said he would not sentence him until all the facts were before the court that showed what money the thief had paid toward the children’s school fees.

Judge Black ordered the father of seven, who has been living in Townsville, be taken into custody.

He adjourned his sentencing to March 22. He said if not all of the money had gone into Haropula’s pocket then it could affect the overall sentence he received.

Haropula pleaded guilty to the fraud offences involving dozens of financial transactions between June 2006 and October 2007 while employed as the centre’s financial manager

He used some of the misappropriated money to make payments on a car.

In September last year, defence lawyer Michael Betts asked Judge Black to put off sentencing Haropula until this year to allow his client to complete a Master of Business course.

The widow, nursing a child while being cross-examined by the Crown prosecutor, gave evidence she was a member of the Lismore Centre Church, and also a Papua New Guinea national.

She denied telling Haropula the school fees would cost $30,000. She also denied that he told her he paid any school fees.

The woman said she ‘was not aware’ of any large amounts of money deposited by Haropula into her bank account. She said her church was aware of her financial difficulties following the unexpected death of her husband.

Judge Black said Haropula was asserting either $40,000 or $56,000 ‘went in favour of the widow’.

Judge Black said she gave very frank evidence that she knew some money was paid on behalf of her children, but she did not know by whom.

Judge Black said Haropula had a significant background of off-ending and a custodial sentence was inevitable.



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