'Greedy' ministry inflated my fraud, says thief
The country's biggest benefit fraudster says the Crown has no right to the $3.2 million it is trying to recover from an Austrian bank.
Wayne Patterson, 53, is five years into an eight-year jail sentence at Wanganui Prison. He has written to The Dominion Post saying the Social Development Ministry was being greedy and had inflated the level of his fraud in order to claim cash and Apple Computer shares he has in an Austrian bank account.
The Austrian Court of Appeal has overturned the Crown's forfeiture order for the funds it claimed Patterson accrued from benefits paid to 123 fake identities he created between 2003 and 2007.
Although he pleaded guilty to stealing $3.4m in benefits, he says he received only $2.6m and has supplied a letter from the ministry that appears to confirm this.
The letter shows that $554,449 tax was deducted from the benefits before Patterson received them. This was later recovered from Inland Revenue.
The ministry has already recovered $3.5m from Patterson in cash and assets and gold that had increased in value while in his possession.
Patterson says the Crown has received what it lost and has no right to the Austrian funds.
He does not say how he came to possess the Austrian funds.
He says the ministry knew he had only stolen $2.6m but was determined "from day one" to make an example of him and "decided from the beginning to seize any assets even remotely associated with [me]".
Patterson said the ministry had used "deceitful and manipulative actions" against him but "I am in no way trying to justify my crime and know my actions were wrong".
Patterson makes other claims, including that the ministry deliberately withheld information on the court action in Austria and that he only heard about it in late 2009 when requesting information on an unrelated matter from the Crown Law Office.
He says the ministry got Inland Revenue to bankrupt him last year after the court ruled in his favour.
He also says the ministry tried to influence the Parole Board before it declined him parole in July.
The board said he was an arrogant, egocentric man who fancied the life of a "big league parasitic fraudster" and he was likely to reoffend.
But Patterson says he has completed several rehabilitation programmes and "I am confident you will not find one staff member in this prison that would describe me as arrogant".
His letter includes Corrections Department progress reports that say he "showed nothing but respect for others" and "Wayne would have no problem at all reintegrating into society".
He is a "compliant and polite prisoner" who is drug-free and employed as a groundsman in his unit.
Corrections says that Patterson's elderly father Thomas, who lives in Carterton, had spoken to a mushroom factory and the local council and said both were willing to interview his son for employment when he was freed.
He comes back before the board next July. His sentence ends in July 2015.
The Crown is still pursuing legal action against Patterson in the Austrian criminal and civil courts.
When the ministry was asked to respond to Patterson's claims a spokeswoman said the ministry stood by the figure of $3.4m.
The Dominion Post