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Churchgoers claim fake rebates

Three Hutt Valley church members who made false rebate claims of $56,000 have been sentenced to community work and community detention.

Evangelical Samoan Wesleyan Methodist Church Lower Hutt congregation members Faalemalo Ipiniu Letoga, Mau Veletaloola and Ita Vienna Aiomata filed rebates for other people between May 2005 and June 2010.

They were only caught when one of the affected people claimed a rebate for themselves, only to be told they'd already received it.

All in all they obtained $56,378.27 in rebate claims, Inland Revenue investigations and advice group manager Patrick Goggin said.

"The trio made 68 false claims for 33 different people. Many of these people did not even attend the church."

Letoga told Inland Revenue the rebates were claimed to raise money to send back to Samoa, something Mr Goggin was unimpressed with.

"The actions of these individuals were a deliberate attempt to claim money to which they were not entitled. They used the names of other people to request funds without their knowledge.

"They cheated not only these people but all taxpayers with their actions."

The men were sentenced in Lower Hutt District Court to six months community detention and 150 hours of community work, and ordered to repay $10,000 to Inland Revenue.