Gang used Whanau Ora funds to buy drugs
Korrey Teeati Cook had been using funds meant for families to buy cannabis (file)
A Dunedin gang member has been jailed for four years, after he used $20,000 in government funding to purchase cannabis.
Korrey Teeati Cook, 36, admitted the charges of dishonesty, conspiring with others to sell cannabis and two charges of possessing cannabis for supply yesterday, according to the Otago Daily Times.
Phone conversations between Cook and fellow gang members in the Mongrel Mob Notorious were recorded by police, in an electronic surveillance operation that lead to the arrest of 10 men earlier this year.
Over a series of calls, Cook was coached by senior gang members in how to receive Whanau Ora funding from Te Puni Kokiri (Ministry of Maori Development) and then transfer the money undetected into his own bank account.
Police also recorded Cook coaching another gang member on how to exploit the agency for personal gain.
Whanau Ora is a government health and social services agency, which gives grants to New Zealand families in need of assistance. Families can apply for up to $20,000 to help live a healthier lifestyle or give up gambling.
Cook secured $41,400 in funding from the programme in July last year, followed by a $10,350 grant this April. He was also given $5,000 from the health board last December.
However, Cook only managed to spend $20,000 on cannabis before his arrest. He ordered two shipments of the drug, but both were intercepted by police before their arrival.
The Whanau Ora programme, setup by the Maori Party, is already under fire this month after a report revealed a lack of accountability in where money was spent.
The review, released to ministers in September and obtained by Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act, says the ministry "cannot tell a robust and convincing story".
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, a trenchant critic of Whanau Ora, described the scheme as a tragedy for the tax payer and for Maori.
3 News / NZN