The Judge said there was no hope of now disgraced chartered accountant Megan Findlay paying back any of the money defrauded from the IRD which totalled $741,206.60. Photo / File

The Judge said there was no hope of now disgraced chartered accountant Megan Findlay paying back any of the money defrauded from the IRD which totalled $741,206.60. Photo / File

A Hamilton woman has not only lost her ability to practise as a chartered accountant but will spend the next 3 year behind bars after stealing $740,000 from the Inland Revenue Department over 7 years.

Megan Nyree Findlay benefited personally by almost $467,000 which she frittered away her ill-gotten gains on gambling, shopping, holidays and other “lifestyle” activities.

Unbeknownst to the company directors, who were members of her own family, the remaining $274,229.55 was used to lessen the GST and income tax bill of the family’s company. Not that they knew about it as Findlay was in charge of all the finances including filing GST and income tax returns.

Findlay’s brother, Jason, today told the Herald their father died at the end of last year completely oblivious to his daughter’s fraud. He said he would “turn in his grave” at what she’d done; be left “heartbroken and shocked”.

He was personally disappointed in her behaviour especially that she had broken his trust. She had previously held senior positions at Deloittes and then Fonterra, before joining the family company.

The court heard that during the seven-year offending period, Megan Findlay not only filed multiple fraudulent tax returns on behalf of the company, Newlook International Ltd, she also impersonated her Mt Maunganui-based parents and her brother.

Findlay began her fraud by impersonating her father through his “MyIR” online account in October 2012, subsequently filing 22 fake GST returns.

The company’s sales and expenses were fabricated and bore no resemblance to the actual sales that had been provided by her brother to help prepare the returns.

The 40-year-old claimed the $431,773.76 of fake GST returns by either paying or transferring money into her personal bank account during that time.

She also reduced the amount of GST the company should have paid by $114,492.24.

In 2014 she began stealing money through fake income tax returns, personally receiving $35,203.69, and reducing the company’s GST payments by $159,737.31 over a five year period.

In December 2015 she stepped up her theft – and changed the frequency of GST filing from 6 monthly to 2 monthly in order to maximise her ability to claim refunds.

In June 2017, she called the IRD purporting to be her mother in order to request that an income tax refund be transferred to her personal account.

On numerous other occasions, she impersonated her father to follow up IRD refunds to ensure they would be directed to her and that all communications from the department be sent to an email address only she had control of.

Defence counsel Jarom Keung reiterated to Judge Jonathan Down that his client was a first offender but admitted that any credit for good character should be tempered due to the length of offending.

He also addressed a comment in her pre-sentence report which stated she didn’t engage with the probation officer to talk about what she had done.

Keung said his client was simply nervous especially as it was her first time before the courts but she was remorseful for her actions.

“In my communications with Ms Findlay is she is a nervous person, she can be quite awkward at times to communicate … [but] she is genuinely remorseful.”

Judge Down accepted part of that submission but noted any discount would also be limited due to her behaviour when first confronted about her offending – a denial and accusing someone else.

“It was in fact her own family that confronted her and she initially tried to pass the blame on to somebody else,” the judge said.

“Even as while the investigation was ongoing her bank account showed that she continued to offend for a short period of time and that those refunds were being used to pay for matters of lifestyle, debt and some gambling.

“Unfortunately the huge amount of money obtained by the defendant was not applied to property, real property, that could be sold and refunded. All of it was frittered away by the defendant and the reality is that the department acknowledges that a full refund of the money can never be made.”

He said he had no doubt that the offending would have caused a great deal of “heartache and loss” to her family as the business.

After taking off a total of 40 per cent in discounts for early guilty pleas – entered after accepting a sentence indication – remorse and good character, Judge Down convicted and sentenced Findlay to 3 years’ jail on 28 charges of dishonestly using a document.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ jail.

IRD spokesperson Richard Philp said Findlay exploited the position of trust she held as a chartered accountant, which enabled her to continue her offending as long as she did.

“This is straight theft from the community. That money could have gone into infrastructure, and the health and education systems to benefit all New Zealanders but instead went into her pocket to fund her lifestyle.