Fraudster avoids jail after 'remorse' letter
A Hamilton judge gave a Cambridge woman a get out of jail free card today after asking her to write him a letter of remorse expressing how sorry she was for ripping off taxpayers of nearly $200,000.
Raewyn Gail Dudeck, also known as Raewyn Cartwright, Fox and Gillies, was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court to the maximum of 12 months' home detention for fraudulently claiming a total of $194,106 after claiming multiple benefits over 10 years.
Judge Peter Spiller also sentenced Dudeck to 150 hours' community work and issued her a final warning.
Dudeck now claims the dubious title of Waikato's worst benefit fraudster, after overtaking Sandra Epere, 52, who was last year sentenced for claiming more than $186,075 over 19 years after claiming a benefit while married.
As he was about to sentence 46-year-old Dudeck, Judge Spiller noticed that although he'd received character references from her friends, there was no remorse letter from Dudeck herself.
Dudeck's lawyer, Melissa James, said she had explained the advantages of writing a letter of remorse to the judge, but she was not in the ''practice of making clients'' write letters and it should be received of their own volition.
But Judge Spiller took it one step further by standing the matter down briefly and telling her that if she wrote him a letter she would not go to prison.
Earlier, Ministry of Social Development prosecutor Carolyn Rameil urged Judge Spiller to impose prison to deter others from continually defrauding the system.
''This sort of offending is rife. I submit that a deterrent factor is important for sentencing benefit fraudsters, if even for the reason that people are struggling ... People are rorting the system. There does seem to be the perception out there that even if they are caught, nothing much is going to happen to them anyway.''
But, after a short remand, Dudeck, unsurprisingly, presented a letter of remorse to Judge Spiller - thus avoiding a jail term despite her large history of fraud.
The court was told that Dudeck, under her two other aliases, racked up 17 charges of defrauding ACC after they had approved treatment for ''traumatic events'' in her teens.
Rameil said Dudeck spent the money on her cats, dogs and a horse, ''rather than putting a roof over her and her children''.
''So it's not so much need, but greed,'' she said.
Dudeck defrauded Winz between February 2002 and October 2012 by not revealing that she was not only living with someone, but was also married to them.
Throughout period she claimed $78,321.98 from the domestic purposes benefit, $69,769.83 of invalid's benefit and $31,921.87 from an accommodation supplement.
She also received several special needs grants; $1582.75 for a fence and $270 for food, along with $265.05 childcare subsidies.
In her successful argument for home detention, Miss James said Dudeck suffered from mental health issues, including social anxiety, from a young age and she had the full care of her three children, who supported her in court along with friends.
Outside court, a relieved Dudeck denied she spent the money on her animals, saying she spent on her children, ''as a matter of survival''.