A man who defrauded a Hutt Valley school of $375,000 over a seven-year period has been freed on parole, after serving less than 10 months in jail.
But Upper Hutt College principal Judith Taylor said she was satisfied the school’s former executive director, Donald Hancox, “has served his time”.
In July last year, the 69-year-old pleaded guilty to 10 criminal charges of obtaining by deception, and was jailed for two years and three months.
As a result of his fraud, school rugby teams were forced to wear mismatched jerseys, plans to buy library books were dropped, and a limited statutory manager was appointed to oversee the school’s financial dealings.
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None of the stolen money has been recovered, although an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act is currently being dealt with.
The college wanted the money repaid so it could buy IT resources, and upgrade equipment for extra-curricular activities, Taylor said.
“This offending is the result of one person’s greed. I hope that his actions have not tainted the reputation of a great school community.”
During his first appearance before the Parole Board at Rimutaka Prison last Friday, Hancox spoke of how he “was under a false impression” that he was entitled to the money.
“I tried to self-justify it. I knew it was illegal,” he said. “I am in prison for doing something that was illegal. I defrauded my employer.”
While red flags were not raised for years, panel convenor Judge J P Gittos asked Hancox: “You must have known the chickens were going to come home to roost.”
Bowing his head, Hancox agreed, outlining the impact his offending had on his family.
Hancox funnelled the cash out of the college’s coffers into bank accounts he controlled using an elaborate web of false invoices, 77 in all, and eight false entities.
After years of flying under the radar, Hancox’s undoing was sending a copy of an invoice the school had already paid to a legitimate supplier in August 2015.
The invoice had a handwritten alteration, changing the amount payable and the bank account number to one Hancox controlled.
In a reserved decision released on Friday, the board acknowledged Hancox had been a “polite and compliant prisoner” and did not pose an undue risk of reoffending.
Hancox, who has been in ailing health, was granted parole with four conditions attached. They include gaining prior written approval from his probation officer for any employment or voluntary work involving the handling of other people’s money.
The scale of his offending led the Ministry of Education to appoint a limited statutory manager to oversee the school’s financial affairs until December last year.
Spokeswoman Katrina Casey said it was “always disappointing” when any employee in a trusted position took advantage.
“We know the school has worked very hard to ensure that this kind of thing won’t occur in the future.
“As has occurred in this case, it is important that those who break the law are held to account by the courts.”