$80,000 fraud admitted

Last updated 15:34 30/01/2013

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A Blenheim couple have admitted hiding their relationship to illegally claim almost $80,000 in benefits over four years.

In Blenheim District Court yesterday Jacqui Leigh Williams, 30, and Daryll Peter McLelland, 30, a vineyard manager, were sentenced to six months' community detention and 200 hours' community work for falsely claiming benefits worth $78,635.90. McLelland was also ordered to pay back $6500 to Work and Income New Zealand.

Williams earlier admitted 10 charges of dishonestly using a document to gain financial advantage and one charge of obtaining the money by deception, while McLelland admitted one charge of obtaining the money by deception.

Judge Tony Zohrab said the pair started a relationship in 2007 and they had two children. However, Williams kept claiming benefits as a solo parent until 2011, and they had taken steps to mask their relationship to help with the fraud.

He said their financial difficulties looking after their children were no excuse. "Your situation is not too much different from other people who are struggling out there. There are a lot of people who are doing it really hard out there, but they don't mislead the department and steal."

Their fraud made it harder for genuine people to get benefits.

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- The Marlborough Express

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