Benefit fraudster's name suppressed

A Manawatu woman who wrongly claimed almost $50,000 in benefit money will keep her name secret thanks to a court ruling.

In Feilding District Court yesterday, the woman was sentenced on six benefit fraud charges for wrongly obtaining $49,417 between November 2008 and May 2011.

Most of that money was Domestic Purposes Benefit overpayment.

During that time she failed to advise Work and Income she was living with her partner, as well as submitting a fake tenancy agreement.

And despite her name previously being published, defence lawyer Mike Ryan successfully secured name suppression for his client.

"There's some risk that it would not be in your interests or the interests of your children to have your name further published,'' Judge Gerard Lynch told the woman.

He also held back on imposing a home detention sentence because of the woman's "personal circumstances'', but made it clear her fraud was unacceptable.

"No-one minds their tax going to those in need, but it grates when people rip the system off.''

The woman will serve six-months' community detention, and do 125 hours' community work and undergo nine months' supervision.

She had been paying off her debt at $20 a week, but Mr Ryan said she could increase that to $50 a week.

At that rate she would take about 19 years to repay the debt. At $20 a week it would take her about 47 years.

Away from court, Social Development Ministry head of fraud Mike Smith said it was disappointing that the woman chose to steal from taxpayers.

"What these people need to know is that their actions discredit the vast majority of our clients who do the right thing and receive the correct entitlement,'' he said.

"We're taking back the money this person stole. We'll pursue this money for as long as it takes.''

Manawatu Standard