A former Thames man who fleeced A$16.6 million ($20.91m) from Queensland taxpayers forged documents carrying the health minister’s name, a court has been told.
A sentencing hearing for Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, also know as Joel, has also been told he had previously faced court for stealing from an employer in New Zealand.
[Source: AAP – Stuff News report 19 March 2012]
The 37-year-old pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court today to eight offences including aggravated fraud as an employee, forgery, uttering a forged document and possessing drugs.
The charges relate to him defrauding the Queensland health department of millions of dollars when he worked there between 2007 and 2011.
He ripped off taxpayers while pretending to be a Tahitian prince, and led an extravagant lifestyle while showering lavish gifts on friends and colleagues.
Prosecutor Todd Fuller SC told the court Morehu-Barlow had previously appeared in court for stealing from an employer across the Tasman.
In 1999, he received an eight-month non-residential sentence in New Zealand for a charge of stealing around $32,000 as a servant.
He received a similar sentence at the same time for using a document for fraudulent advantage.
No details were given as to the identity of his employer at the time.
Fuller said the offending was in a similar vein to his latest offences, which involved him approving payments from Queensland Health.
Most payments were siphoned from a special minister’s fund that was designed to provide revenue to charities.
Morehu-Barlow forged a document purporting to be from former health minister Paul Lucas approving a charitable grant, and then transferred the cash to himself, the court heard.
He also used other official documents for his own fraudulent activity.
The fraudulent transactions increased in size until he approved an A$11 million payment to himself, which had purportedly been approved for a university dental scheme.
The hearing continues.
Source: AAP dated 19 March 2013
See: Thames man admits Queensland health service fraud