An Auckland woman who tried to get nearly $60,000 in Covid-19 relief money has been sentenced to nearly a year of home detention.

Inland Revenue (IRD) described Samantha Paul’s actions between May 2020 and January 2022 as “calculated” and “premeditated”.

Paul had applied for Small Business Cashflow scheme loans (SBCS) for three unrelated taxpayers, one for her own company and one in her own name.

IRD said in a release that Paul applied for $59,000 of Covid-19 relief money and was paid out $47,000 before her actions were discovered. Nearly $12,000 has since been recovered.

The money was paid into Paul’s accounts and the account of an associate, Jason Gray.

Gray was sentenced to 20 months in prison in May 2023 on charges of dishonestly using two SBCS application forms to get nearly $14,000. He was also sentenced on forgery and breach of home detention.

IRD said Paul’s actions were “a calculated offending and inherently premeditated”.

“The Small Business Cashflow scheme was rolled out on a ‘high trust’ model so small business owners who were feeling the pinch because of the pandemic could access funds quickly. Paul took advantage of that trust.”

The unrelated taxpayers who Paul applied for were all clients of a tax agency where Paul had worked between 2018 and 2019 — Paul kept their myIR login details and illegally accessed them without authority, IRD said.

They confirmed they had not applied for the loans and did not receive any money.

Paul received an end sentence of 23 months in prison which the judge commuted to a sentence of 11 months home detention. The judge noted Paul has a young child in her care.

However, the judge warned Paul that if she reoffended during her home detention period, she would be sent to prison.

Paul’s offending occurred between May 18, 2020, and January 2022. Applications for the SBCS opened on May 12, 2020.