The son of New Zealand’s worst convicted slave owner stole $130,000 via a petrol card racket which he blew on gambling and lunch.

Tala Joseph-Auga Matamata, 35, pleaded guilty in the County Court on Wednesday to multiple fraud charges.

Matamata, from Melton West, kicked off his racket while employed as a leading hand for top road infrastructure company Fulton Hogan Industries Pty Ltd.

Matamata stole company petrol cards from his employer’s Port Phillip site which he sold to courier business owner Ky Nguyen.

Matamata, a father of four, sold Mr Nguyen seven cards worth $130,207 between September 2017 and January 2019.

The court heard Matamata pocketed up to $117,000 which he blew on pokies, household bills and lunch.

Tala Joseph-Auga Matamata.
Tala Joseph-Auga Matamata.

The fraudster first approached Mr Nguyen at a Laverton North service station in September 2017.

The pair struck a deal exchanging cards for cash totalling at least 50 per cent of the petrol value.

Matamata would drop a new card to Mr Nguyen whenever an old card got cancelled.

Matamata was caught after Fusion conducted an internal investigation in January 2019.

The New Zealand citizen was fired from his $100,000 a year job and referred to police.

Matamata admitted his racket but claimed Mr Nguyen — who isn’t charged with any offence — did not know the cards were stolen.

The court heard Matamata was heavily addicted to gambling and was spinning away up to $1000 a session on the pokies.

Matamata kept gambling up until the pokies were shutdown due to COVID-19 lockdown conditions in Victoria in March this year.

It was submitted Matamata’s offending was a direct result of the “childhood trauma” suffered at the hands of his father in New Zealand.

The court heard Matamata was made to work for nothing on his father’s orchard farm from age 8 until the age of 23 when he fled to Melbourne.

Matamata’s father, Joseph Auga Matamata, is considered the worst convicted slave owner and human trafficker in New Zealand’s history.

The court heard Matamata Snr was in July jailed for 11 years after he was found guilty in the New Zealand High Court of multiple slavery and human-trafficking offences.

However, Judge Michael McInerney put little weight on this submission.

“I think it’s just an addiction,” Judge McInerney said.

“He was smart enough to get out of the area … the only explanation I can see is one of gambling addiction.”

Judge McInerney — who “couldn’t believe” Matamata kept gambling — said the offending was “serious”.

“This breach of trust was ongoing for (offending) period,” Judge McInerney said.

Judge McInerney said he “can’t accept” Mr Nguyen didn’t know the cards was stolen.

“But I’m not dealing with Mr Nguyen,” he said.

Matamata’s bail was extended for sentencing on September 24.

The court heard he will be deported if sentenced to 12 months’ jail or more.

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