A woman who conned three government agencies into providing support, including payments for fictitious carers, has been jailed for benefit fraud charges involving $270,000.
Angela Martha Becker, 47, also known as Annette, was jailed for three years today despite her health difficulties, which mean she needs to be fed using equipment that she brought to court.
She arranged to receive payments from ACC, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development at the same time.
At one stage there were payments totalling $1793 a week going to the family from the Ministry of Social Development alone.
Judge Jane Farish said at the Christchurch District Court sentencing: "On any view of it, this was sustained, complex, sophisticated and premeditated offending against three government agencies."
She said Becker had been living well beyond her means.
"I am not surprised that as soon as the offending came to light and you lost the funding streams you lost the means to be able to continue to live in a $610,000 house that was built in Rolleston," the judge said.
Funding had been sought and granted for a caregiver for her disabled son, but the caregiver was still at high school at the time. Other funding arranged by Becker was paid for fictitious caregivers.
Defence counsel Mark Callaghan said: "She accepts she has committed the offences by misleading the government departments. They each knew she was dealing with the other departments, but not to the extent she was defrauding them."
He said it would be disproportionately severe to send her to jail because of her health problems, and she would not be able to continue with her complex treatment in prison.
He urged that a home detention sentence be imposed.
Judge Farish said the prison had its own hospital or could send her out to a hospital if necessary, so the prison would be able to cope with her health needs, and the sentence would not be disproportionate.
"A sentence of home detention has absolutely no punitive aspect for you," she said.
"You would continue with the lifestyle you have been living for the last couple of years."
Judge Farish said "fraud is fraud" whether it was benefit or corporate.
Welfare agencies were set up to help people in need, but much of their effort was being deflected into detecting this type of offending.
She said Becker's offending had arisen from greed rather than need.
Becker pleaded guilty to seven charges of dishonestly using documents and two of obtaining benefits by deception about a month before her jury trial was due to start.
The judge said the evidence against Becker was overwhelming.
Becker had previous convictions for frauds against ACC in 1997, and when she was treasurer for an organisation in 2006.
The judge acknowledged Becker's health difficulties and her psychological issues.
But the offending had continued for 11 years and resulted in a total loss of $270,000 to the taxpayer, she said. It had a high degree of sophistication and there was no means to pay the money back.
The court was told the house at Rolleston had been lost in a mortgagee sale by the bank.
The judge reduced Becker's jail sentence for the guilty pleas and her medical condition and ordered that only $5000 of the losses be repaid, at a rate of $50 a week, after Becker's release from prison.
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