She was the smiling face behind the checkout.
The trusted senior supervisor at Rototuna New World was known for passing lollies to shoppers’ children.
But Rajwinder Kaur hid a dark secret.
Over a year, she swiped $125,000 worth of tobacco to be sold at the family dairy.
She was sentenced to 10 months of home detention for what Judge David Wilson described as “a very high level of breach of trust”.
Kaur, 37, wept throughout her sentencing as she stood in the dock at the Hamilton District Court on Thursday.
It was a spectacular fall from grace for Kaur, who has also gone by the first name of “Nikki” and has made headlines for her good deeds.
A tearful Rajwinder Kaur leaves the Hamilton District Court with her husband, Kevin Sohal, following an earlier appearance.
Kaur had earlier pleaded guilty to four charges of stealing and one charge of possession of tobacco products to which she was not entitled.
It was while she was employed at New World Rototuna that she covertly made off with $125,406.72 worth of tobacco and cigarettes, which she took to her husband Kevin Sohal’s business – the Fairfield Bridge Dairy on River Rd – to stock the shelves there.
Kaur was well-liked and popular at the supermarket, and over the eight years she worked with the company had risen through the ranks to a position of seniority and trust.
But, as her counsel Thomas Sutcliffe told the court, her family’s situation began to deteriorate after her husband suffered a debilitating injury as well as some other health ailments, and was no longer able to work in the dairy to any great capacity.
Without telling her husband, Kaur began to augment the dairy’s stocks with cartons of tobacco and cigarettes that she had snuck out of the supermarket.
Court documents reveal that between October 1, 2015, and March 31, 2016, Kaur stole $55,683.07 worth of tobacco and cigarette cartons, the property of New World Rototuna.
This was followed by stock valued at $59,429.52 and $10,298.13, stolen between April 1 and September 30 last year.
“At the time of these offences, you were under extreme stress,” Judge Wilson said.
“Your husband suffers from a number of critical ailments. He is not able to work in any more than a minor way … [and] he was unaware of what you were doing.”
The judge chided Kaur for turning her back on “a lifetime of good behaviour”.
“You knew what you were doing, but still you did it.”
Speaking after the sentencing, Suresh Chimanlal, the owner of New World Rototuna, said he was “extremely disappointed” in the sentence Kaur received.
“It’s a long way from being a reasonable sentence, considering the level of the crime.
“I’ve been a business owner in the Waikato for 21 years, I have staff who depend on me for their livelihoods, and this has a huge impact on us.
“My wife and I put our heart and soul into our store. This is not a small amount of money – it’s a huge cost to us and we’re very upset.”
Chimanlal declined to say how Kaur’s offending had been detected, but did confirm that security and monitoring of staff had to be increased as a result.
He also did not divulge whether the company would be seeking the outstanding amount of reparation through a civil action against Kaur.
Fairfield Bridge Dairy owners Kevin Sohal and Nikki Kaur, pictured in their store in 2009.
Also speaking after court, Kaur’s husband, Sohal, revealed one of his most debilitating ailments was two slipped discs in his back, which he suffered while shifting stock in his store.
It was not the first time Kaur has made headlines. In 2013, she featured in the “Are you being served?” series in the Waikato Times, where she earned high praise from her New World bosses.
“No one else has mastered the art of packing everything into two bags like she does,” said store manager Mark Gower.
Kaur and Sohal also gained fame in 2011, when they decided not to sell synthetic cannabis products in their dairy.
When approached at her home, a distraught Kaur had no comment, other than to repeatedly say she was sorry.
Prior to sentencing, Sutcliffe had told the court that Kaur was her family’s main breadwinner after her husband fell ill.
“Their personal circumstances are quite dire. He relies on his wife to ensure the dairy is functional.
“The indebtedness of the dairy is significant in terms of its value.”
With the assistance of family members, they had “managed to scrape together” $35,000, which could be put towards reparation.
Judge Wilson ordered that this be paid immediately, as part of Kaur’s sentence.
New World had been seeking the full amount.
Sutcliffe said Kaur had also participated in a restorative justice conference with New World management.
“The victims have been remarkably merciful in their approach.
“She is deeply remorseful for … a gross breach of trust over an extended period of time.”
Judge Wilson took a starting point of two years and nine months in prison, but made reductions for Kaur’s early guilty plea, her reparation offer, her remorse, and the positive restorative justice conference.
This brought the sentence down to 20 months in jail, which Judge Wilson commuted to 10 months of home detention.