'Seasoned' fraudster pleads guilty

MAVA HAROPULA stole $67,000 from the not-for-profit Lismore Neighbourhood Centre and pleaded guilty in Lismore District Court last week to three counts of fraud.

The financial wiz and father of seven is no stranger to criminal enterprise having previously been convicted and jailed on fraud-related charges in Queensland.

Following Haropula's guilty pleas to dishonesty for taking the money while employed by the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre involving dozens of unauthorised financial transactions, defence lawyer Michael Betts asked Judge James Black to set the sentencing date in the new year to allow his client to complete a Master's of Business course.

He said the successful completion of the course would help Haropula obtain employment, otherwise his future would be prejudiced. The lawyer also tendered a confidential letter written by Haropula to Judge Black.

Haropula, 40, a New Guinea national who lives in Townsville, has proven fraud related offences with the Crown prosecutor detailing Queensland convictions on charges of dishonestly obtaining property and two counts of attempting to dishonestly obtain property while Haropula was placed on 18 months probation.

In 2004 he was convicted and sentenced in Ipswich District Court on fraud offences and served six months jail with the rest of the 30-month term suspended.

In 2008 Haropula was also convicted in a Queensland magistrate's court on a charge of bringing tainted property (a vehicle) into Queensland from NSW.

Haropula was employed as the financial manager with the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre Inc from June 2006 until he was sacked in October 2007.

Within weeks of starting Haropula began defrauding the organisation, using some of the misappropriated money to make payments on a car.

During the police investigation it was found data held on a finance computer had been deleted or lost and other financial records missing.

Haropula was charged in April 2008 with fraudulently taking property for his own benefit and Judge Black has set his sentence date for February 12.

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