Ex-Department of Social Development employee stole $26,000

A former Department of Social Development case manager who paid more than $26,000 in beneficiary payments into her own bank accounts has been sentenced to house arrest. Photo / Dean Purcell

A former Department of Social Development case manager who paid more than $26,000 in beneficiary payments into her own bank accounts has been sentenced to house arrest.

Unemployed Joanne Marie Dodunski (38) appeared in Alexandra District Court yesterday to be convicted of 12 counts of accessing a computer system for a dishonest purpose.

Dodunski, who committed the offense while working at the ministry’s office in Papakura, Auckland, moved to Lindis Valley after her offense was discovered.

Judge Michael Turner said the defendant was authorized to process payments for recipients, including special needs grants and revolving aid.

Between April 2019 and August 2020, she made payments totaling $26,090.88 to personal bank accounts or directly to vendors to pay for household expenses.

She labeled the payments on the accounts of 12 social recipients, including those of friends and neighbours.

“It was a loss to the state, every taxpayer in this country,” Judge Turner said.

Her offense was motivated by the fact that her husband had lost his job, making her the sole source of income as well as the main caregiver for their children.

Dodunski also claimed she needed the money to buy meth, which “gave her energy” when she was exhausted.

However, his methamphetamine use was self-reported and there was no evidence of it, the judge said.

Her offense was “sophisticated, deliberate, calculated and lengthy” and a huge breach of her employer’s trust in her.

This was further compounded by his initial denial of the charges.

The only mitigating factor was his previous clean criminal record.

He sentenced her to nine months house arrest and ordered her to repay all the money, $800 immediately and the balance at $40 per week.

Joel C. Hicks