Couple admit stealing tax-payer funds for lavish lifestyle
A Christchurch couple have pleaded guilty to defrauding a government-funded disability trust of nearly $500,000 on charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office.
Cecilia Ellenbroek (61) and Alfonsus Ellenbroek (64) spent Alpha Support Centre Trust funds on their personal expenses – including extensive international travel and accommodation, meals and entertainment, clothing, cigarettes, alcohol, jewellery and household appliances. They entered their pleas at the Christchurch District Court.
Mrs Ellenbroek pleaded guilty to six counts of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’ and six counts of ‘False accounting’, while her husband, Mr Ellenbroek, pleaded guilty to six counts of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’.
The Christchurch-based disability trust was funded by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development.
SFO Director, Julie Read said, “The Ellenbroeks’ offending took place over a sustained period, was premeditated and the amount of public funds stolen was significant. The funds were allocated for community day care and vocational services for people with intellectual disabilities. The offending came at the expense of some of the most vulnerable members of our society, with whose care the Ellenbroeks were entrusted.”
Mr and Mrs Ellenbroek have been remanded on bail until sentencing on 25 October at the Christchurch District Court.
For further media information
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550
Note to editors
Cecilia Ann Ellenbroek (61) was a trustee of Alpha Support Centre Trust, which was a government-funded disability trust based in Christchurch. Alfonsus Jozef Maria Ellenbroek (64) was also a trustee of Alpha.
Alpha received funding from both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development for the purpose of providing community day care and vocational services for people with intellectual disabilities. The trust also received donations and funding grants from other sources.
Alpha was incorporated under the Charitable Trusts Act in July 1998 and was registered with Charities Services in October 2007. It ceased operation in February 2015.
Alpha’s client base included individuals with mild to challenging intellectual disabilities. Staff assisted the clients to participate in activities such as music, reading, puzzles, sports and baking. They also took clients offsite to participate in community-based activities such as meals on wheels, cooking classes and to work in a community garden plot.
Alpha had purpose built premises at 217 Ferry Road, Christchurch. These premises allowed for 70-80 clients to be looked after.
Crimes Act offences
Section 220 Theft by person in special relationship
(1) This section applies to any person who has received or is in possession of, or has control over, any property on terms or in circumstances that the person knows require the person—
(a) to account to any other person for the property, or for any proceeds arising from the property; or
(b) to deal with the property, or any proceeds arising from the property, in accordance with the requirements of any other person.
(2) Every one to whom subsection (1) applies commits theft who intentionally fails to account to the other person as so required or intentionally deals with the property, or any proceeds of the property, otherwise than in accordance with those requirements.
(3) This section applies whether or not the person was required to deliver over the identical property received or in the person’s possession or control.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (1), it is a question of law whether the circumstances required any person to account or to act in accordance with any requirements.
Section 260 False accounting
Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years who, with intent to obtain by deception any property, privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration, or to deceive or cause loss to any other person,—
(a) makes or causes to be made, or concurs in the making of, any false entry in any book or account or other document required or used for accounting purposes; or
(b) omits or causes to be omitted, or concurs in the omission of, any material particular from any such book or account or other document; or
(c) makes any transfer of any interest in a stock, debenture, or debt in the name of any person other than the owner of that interest.
About the SFO
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act.
The SFO is the lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious or complex financial crime, including bribery and corruption.
The presence of an agency dedicated to white collar crime is integral to New Zealand’s reputation for transparency, integrity, fair-mindedness and low levels of corruption.
This work contributes to a productive and prosperous New Zealand and the SFO’s collaborative efforts with international partners also reduce the serious harm that corrupt business practices do to the global economy.
The SFO has two operational teams: the Evaluation and Intelligence team and the Investigations team.
The SFO operates under two sets of investigative powers.
Part 1 of the SFO Act provides that it may act where the Director “has reason to suspect that an investigation into the affairs of any person may disclose serious or complex fraud.”
Part 2 of the SFO Act provides the SFO with more extensive powers where: “…the Director has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence involving serious or complex fraud may have been committed…”
In considering whether a matter involves serious or complex fraud, the Director may, among other things, have regard to:
- the suspected nature and consequences of the fraud and/or;
- the suspected scale of the fraud and/or;
- the legal, factual and evidential complexity of the matter and/or;
- any relevant public interest considerations.
The SFO’s Annual Report 2017 sets out its achievements for the past year, while the Statement of Intent 2014-2018 sets out the SFO’s strategic goals and performance standards. Both are available online at www.sfo.govt.nz
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