Son guilty over 'war chest'

Last updated 10:17 10/07/2014

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A son pocketed his late father's war pension for more than 10 years after his parents' death.

Lawrence McRae, 67, admitted taking almost $90,000 when he appeared in the Napier District Court yesterday.

His father Colin McRae received the veteran's war pension until he died in 1992. McRae served in World War II in the 14th Platoon and 22nd Battalion. He was taken as prisoner of war when the Germans invaded Crete.

After his death, wife Iris continued to receive the pension, the police summary states.

In March last year Veterans' Affairs New Zealand had mail returned that it had sent to Iris McRae. After some digging, the New Zealand Defence Force unit discovered Iris had died almost 14 years ago - on October 7 1999.

Pension payments are supposed to cease the day after a surviving spouse passes away.

A year after her husband died, Iris gave son Robert access to the bank account that the pension was paid into. Brother Lawrence was later added as a signatory.

Robert, who is based in Australia, became the sole owner of the account when Iris passed away. Neither brother alerted the New Zealand Defence Force to their mothers death.

Lawrence told police he started using the pension money ''because the money helped''.

Between 2007 and 2013 he made 133 withdrawals from the account. Lawrence withdrew the money by writing out a cheque to a business or organisation or presenting a cash cheque to the teller, the summary states.

Lawrence said his brother did not know the pension was still being paid into the account.

He stopped using the account when he received a letter from Veterans' Affairs stating that he owed $89,259.89.

McRae was remanded off until sentencing next month. Reparation is sought.

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- The Dominion Post

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