Benefit fraud pair must pay back $60,000

NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Last updated 13:39 31/07/2013

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A Morrinsville beneficiary couple who lied to the government about their relationship for over five years will now have to pay back almost $60,000.

The couple pleaded guilty when they appeared in the Morrinsville District Court this morning on 31 charges between them.

Tasha Diane MacKenzie, who also uses the surnames Ries, McKenzie and Wirtanen, 34, appeared on 23 charges of using a document to obtain pecuniary advantage, two of using forged documents and one of obtaining by deception.

Her partner Tony Allan Wynd, 40, appeared on five of using a document to obtain a pecuniary advantage and one of obtaining by deception.

In total the couple fraudulently obtained $57,403.10.

A summary of facts read out to the court reveals the couple were both beneficiaries when they started seeing each other in June 2007 - MacKenzie was on the DPB, while Wynd the sickness benefit.

Yet both failed to alert Work and Income to this fact and even went as far as purchasing a Morrinsville house together in 2009 without disclosing such information.

In fact MacKenzie lied to WINZ and said she was renting the property and provided a copy of a false tenancy agreement to state she was paying rent to a Judith Wirtanen.

Then in April 2012 she provided false letter saying that her rent was going up, which was signed by a Judith Wirtanen, to get more assistance.

When MacKenzie was initially interviewed about the fraud she denied being in a relationship with Wynd and said she had only used him to get finance.

Wynd declined to make a statement at all, but said he wasn't in a relationship with MacKenzie.

The couple have made arrangements to pay the money back and will be sentenced in October.

MacKenzie faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and Wynd seven years.

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