A fake tax agent ripped people off - here's how it happened
A fake tax agent ripped off his close-knit community when he secretly filed fake claims on their behalf and kept tens of thousands of dollars for himself.
Polevia Sioli was given a two-year good behaviour bond by the County Court of Victoria on Wednesday and told to pay back $100,000 to the Australian Tax Office.
The 55-year-old appeared from his home via videolink, dressed in a formal suit with his daughter by his side, as he listened to an account of his dodgy dealings.
The court heard Sioli filled in 27 incorrect tax returns for 26 people in 2006 and 2007 worth about $200,000.
He snuck in claims for extra deductions and offsets so the refunds were bigger than they should have been.
The refunds then went directly into his bank account, and he kept about $40,000 before passing the rest on.
Prosecutor Linda Palmisano said Sioli assured his 26 victims he was legitimate - but he had dropped out of the accounting degree he started years earlier and, at the time, his most recent employment was at a chicken farm.
"They believed Sioli to be a tax agent, so they provided him with their confidential information," she said.
"None of the 26 taxpayers sighted or signed their tax returns before Sioli submitted them.
"He was not a tax agent and has never been a tax agent."
An arrest warrant was issued for his arrest in 2011 but, coincidentally, Sioli had already left the country.
He returned to his birthplace of Samoa because his mother had appointed him the Matai, or chief, of the family - and he remained in Samoa and New Zealand until he decided to visit Australia for a visit in December 2019.
He was "much surprised" to be arrested at the airport when he flew into Brisbane, Judge Peter Lauritsen said.
The now-truck driver was put in jail for 33 days, and he spent four days in hospital with chest pains after the shock of the unexpected public arrest.
Sioli's lawyer Raphael di Vietri said he was in dire financial straits when he submitted the fraudulent returns, as the chicken farm was not giving him shifts and he wasn't eligible for Centrelink.
He was the carer for four children after his wife died in a tragic car accident in Samoa in 2000.
The family of five were evicted after he couldn't make rent and a friend took them into their home in "somewhat cramped" conditions.
Judge Lauritsen said he spent the money "to help find stable accommodation and on (his) children's education".
But he said he had fraudulently obtained "a significant amount of money".
Sioli pleaded guilty to dishonestly cause risk of loss to a Commonwealth entity.
Originally published as How fake tax agent ripped people off