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Two years jail for ex bank teller

Saturday 12 August 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Court, Crime, National


Two years  jail for ex  bank teller

A former Bank of the Cook Islands teller at the Rakahanga branch has been jailed for two years after admitting she stole more than $45,000 from customers.

Tupehoro Pokipoki admitted her guilt to four charges of theft as a servant when she appeared before Justice Dame Judith Potter in the High Court on Thursday.

She had entered guilty pleas to eight charges of theft as a servant in October 2022 totalling $60,000 but further investigation showed the quantum stolen had been amended.

Crown lawyer Mariata Pittman said there were now four charges.

Defence lawyer Mark Short confirmed an amount of $46,570.

Justice Potter said there was a proposal to vacate earlier guilty pleas and that amended charges be filed, which would be then put to the defendant.

The court heard police received a complaint of theft on October 1, 2021 from BCI.

Upon investigation it was found Pokipoki had forged customer signatures between 2020 and 2021 and made transactions.

The bank had since reimbursed the victims.

Pokipoki entered guilty pleas to the four charges.

Pittman said a starting point was three to three and a half years jail.

After discounts, including 33 per cent for an early guilty plea, the Crown was left a recommended sentence of two years jail.

There was a significant amount of planning and premeditation and the offending was prolonged, with a large number of transactions, the court heard.

Pittman said there was an abuse of trust.

The defendant had been given access to personal documents and the investigation had cost about $9000.

Justice Potter said while the bank had reimbursed its customers, there had been no reparation, and there were no mitigating factors.

Pittman said the Crown had received a probation report and the defendant had shown remorse.

There was a recommendation for two years jail and a reparation order.

Short said the case had been rather challenging as it had been listed in 2021 and detectives had to travel to Rakahanga to obtain information.

The defendant didn’t really know how to deal with it.

Her parents had flown in from Australia and were at sentencing, they were very upset, and there were letters of support, Short said.

“This is just not in her character but it was done over a long period of time.

“Most people in a situation like this learn from their mistakes; the defendant will learn from this.”

Short said he had told his client to prepare for a custodial sentence while her father had asked the court to accept an apology from him.

Short said most of her family members lived in Rakahanga and some lived in Australia.

“At the end of the day, people have to account for what they do.

“She has admitted to it but it has been a matter of determining the amounts.”

In sentencing Pokipoki, Justice Potter said there had been references to testify to her previously good character.

“She was held in the community with respect; there has been disappointment, embarrassment and shame for the offending, for which she is being sentenced.

“This is serious offending which will be met with a custodial sentence.”

Justice Potter accepted a starting point of three years and six months from the Crown, then a 33 per cent discount for the guilty plea and a discount for a first offence.

Justice Potter sentenced Pokipoki to two years jail and made a reparation order for $46,570.