Fraudster spent Red Cross earthquake grants on drugs, alcohol, KFC

Some families missed out on Red Cross grants after the Christchurch earthquakes because Donna Marie Nicola Paish had ...

Some families missed out on Red Cross grants after the Christchurch earthquakes because Donna Marie Nicola Paish had already used their names and addresses for money.

A woman was described as "cynical, calculated, and manipulative" by a judge who jailed her for fraudulently claiming Red Cross hardship grants after the Christchurch earthquakes.

The woman, Donna Marie Nicola Paish also known as Nikita Victoria Burns, was jailed for two years three months for claiming grants in the names of people who really needed them.

Paish, 40, had admitted using documents fraudulently 20 times to receive $18,000 from a fund which New Zealanders had contributed to.

It was to help people who had to live without power, water, and sewerage, or who had to leave their homes, during the weeks after the earthquakes.

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At the Christchurch District Court sentencing, Judge Michael Crosbie said Paish used the money for methamphetamine, alcohol, and KFC, and the people at the addresses she used for her claims later claimed themselves, and were turned away.

He said a generous New Zealand community dug deep at a time when funds were badly needed, and moved quickly to help.

But Paish took advantage of their wanting to help those truly in need, and she should be ashamed of herself, he said.

He hoped that the feedback she had had from a disgusted and outraged community weighed heavily on her shoulders.

Paish was also being sentenced for benefit fraud, and Judge Cosbie said she had taken advantage of a welfare system which relied implicitly on trust, and had obtained funds which she knew she was not entitled to.

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The total of her offending was more than $33,000.

 - The Press

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