Andrea Talaave Lilo looked like she was living a “lavish life” making good money and driving nice new cars.
But, what her family didn’t know was that the former administration worker had defrauded not only her employer, but also her colleagues, out of thousands so she could “save face” at home.
Lilo used her position at Argus Fire Protection in Petone to access her colleagues’ driver’s licences so she could book rental cars with their details. She also altered work invoices putting her own account number in place of the company’s.
The victims were often her co-workers – people who considered her to be a friend but who have now been left heavily impacted by the Wellington woman’s breach of trust.
The 33-year-old was on Tuesday sentenced to 11-and-a-half months’ home detention in the Wellington District Court on a large raft of charges relating to her offending between November 2021 and May 2022.
They include numerous counts of obtaining a document for pecuniary advantage, altering documents with intent to defraud, and accessing a computer system for dishonest purposes.
She was also sentenced for driving while forbidden, after obtaining driver’s licence details to rent cars from various companies in the Wellington region, despite being an unlicensed driver.
The court heard Lilo had access to the company’s computer systems and used her position to take co-workers’ information, including her own manager. She used their licences and credit cards to book rental cars - including an Audi and a Rav4.
On a few occasions, she used her own credit card details for the rentals. In other cases she used details that had been previously given to her for work purposes, which she kept on a post-it note.
One such example was in December 2021 she used a colleague’s card to hire a Rav4 for $815. A month later she completed a rental agreement with Omega Rental Cars using her manager’s name, a forged signature and credit card details that were not her own.
Lilo went on to alter several cash sale invoices in 2022, putting her account number in place of the work account. She obtained around $18,000 from clients this way.
Andrea Talaave Lilo was sentenced on Tuesday in the Wellington District Court.
According to the summary of facts, Lilo told police she felt the need to save face at home and needed a car and extra money to do this.
She said to the police she still felt she was a good person because “she used her own bank card when renting cars”.
Lawyer Philippa Sullivan said a community-based sentence would be appropriate for Lilo who had offered to pay $400 a fortnight in reparation to her victims.
Sullivan said Lilo’s offending wasn’t spurred by drugs, alcohol or anger, but more by something inside her telling her she deserved a reward after a life of working, looking after her parents and going to church.
She said Lilo felt alone and under stress at the time of the offending.
Her colleagues had given her a “genuine hand” of friendship, and Lilo’s actions would have hurt them, Sullivan said. Lilo was genuinely remorseful, according to Sullivan, and had attempted to participate in restorative justice.
Police prosecutor Karuna Thawani said Lilo was viewed to be living a “lavish life” by her victims, not giving the money to her church as previously suggested.
Judge Katie Elkin acknowledged the significant negative impact Lilo’s offending had on her victims who have experienced ongoing impacts from the breach of trust.
Judge Elkin said a sentence of community detention was not appropriate and sentenced Lilo to nearly the maximum home detention sentence available.
“You’ve only narrowly avoided going to prison,” she said. “I hope that you will be able to work and pay back the money you owe and show you a better way forward for the future.”
Hazel Osborne is an Open Justice reporter for NZME and is based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington. She joined the Open Justice team at the beginning of 2022, previously working in Whakatāne as a court and crime reporter in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
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