Former cop stole from po­lice club

Waihi Leader - - News - By SAN­DRA CONCHIE

A former cop who ad­mit­ted he stole money from the Tau­ranga Po­lice AOS So­cial Club ac­count while he was its trea­surer has nar­rowly avoided a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion.

Matthew Craig El­liott, 43, ap­peared in the Waihi District Court yes­ter­day for sen­tenc­ing after he pleaded guilty to a charge of theft by a per­son in a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship in March.

El­liott sought a dis­charge with­out con­vic­tion after he told the of­fi­cer in charge that the short­fall in club funds had been poor ac­count­ing rather than a de­lib­er­ate theft.

The former sworn po­lice of­fi­cer and Tau­ranga Armed Of­fend­ers Squad mem­ber was also trea­surer of the Tau­ranga Po­lice AOS So­cial Club be­tween 2007 and 2015.

Mem­bers made reg­u­lar direct cred­its into the club’s ANZ ac­count, and funds were used to pay for items such as an­nual din­ners and to buy flow­ers for be­reave­ments.

As trea­surer El­liott had access to the club’s bank ac­count Eft­pos card, the court heard.

Be­tween May 5, 2011 and May 1, 2015, he made a large num­ber of unau­tho­rised trans­ac­tions to help pay for per­sonal ex­penses.

That in­cluded 32 Eft­pos pur­chases at an tu­moetai bar to­talling $982.50.

El­liott also made cash with­drawals and used the card to pay for a large num­ber of other items such as take­aways, cof­fees, sushi, golf fees, sand­blast­ing and a hair­cut.

The trans­ac­tions to­talled $4466, but El­liott paid back ex­tra con­tri­bu­tions to the club’s bank ac­count in the amount of $2612.58, leav­ing a short­fall of $1853.42.

Po­lice pros­e­cu­tor Amy Al­cock told Judge David Cameron that the po­lice op­posed the dis­charge ap­pli­ca­tion as El­liott’s of­fend­ing in­volved a “gross breach of trust”.

Lawyer Bill Nab­ney sub­mit­ted that the pros­e­cu­tor had “over-stated” the grav­ity of his client’s of­fend­ing, which had only arisen in his role as club trea­surer.

El­liott had adopted a prac­tice of some­times us­ing the so­cial club bank card to pay for per­sonal ex­penses to gain loy­alty points but al­ways in­tended to pay the money back.

Nab­ney said El­liott ac­cepted what he did was wrong and had since paid the $1853.42.

A crim­i­nal con­vic­tion would put El­liott’s em­ploy­ment as qual­ity as­sur­ance man­ager at a build­ing com­pany at risk with se­vere con­se­quences for him and his fam­ily, he said.

Judge Cameron said after hear­ing from Nab­ney and the pros­e­cu­tor he was satisfied by a “nar­row mar­gin” to grant El­liott a dis­charge with­out con­vic­tion.

“A con­vic­tion would not only heighten the risk of El­liott los­ing his job, but he may also have dif­fi­cul­ties in gain­ing other work, which would have a se­vere im­pact on his fam­ily.”

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