A Waikato sharemilker who used COVID support money on online gambling was sentenced to nine months home detention at a court appearance this month.
Gordon Kenneth Morris was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court on 1 February.
He was charged with submitting fraudulent applications for Small Business Cashflow Scheme loans and Resurgence Support Payments, as well as false GST and income tax returns.
The Small Business Cashflow Loan (SBCS) scheme was introduced in 2020 to support small businesses who were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February 2021, the Government introduced the Resurgence Support Payment (RSP) scheme to provide grants to businesses that were adversely affected by the raise in the alert levels during the pandemic.
The SBCS and RSP schemes were implemented under urgency using a “High Trust” application model to ensure businesses could access funds to support the business quickly.
Morris’s companies received $27,200 of SBCS money. $8,800 in RSP applications was declined.
An analysis of his and his wife’s bank statements showed their income was grossly understated and expenses overstated, causing significant income tax and GST discrepancies of $109,565 and $103,012 respectively. There had been no business activity since January 2020.
The bank statement analysis also showed that the funds obtained from the SBCL scheme and wage subsidies were withdrawn in cash and spent on online gambling. In total, Morris and his wife spent $336,465 in online casinos between 1 April 2018 and 20 October 2020.
As part of the sentence, Morris has been ordered to attend counselling and a Salvation Army Oasis programme and pay reparations of $20 per week.
Morris has previous dishonesty convictions but his lawyer told the court they should be treated as historic and noted that Morris had undertaken courses to address his gambling.