Woman jailed for DPB fraud

Last updated 05:00 14/08/2014

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A 50-year-old woman who defrauded the state by more than $132,000 has been sent to jail.

Karina Ann McHardy, 50, began receiving a domestic purposes benefit and accommodation supplement in 2002.

She told authorities she was separated and not living with her husband Phillip McHardy.

She continued receiving the DPB until 2011 and the accommodation supplement until 2007.

However, inquiries later revealed she was living with her husband when she applied for the benefit and she continued living with him until his accidental death in 2011.

McHardy, from Balclutha, falsely signed Work and Income forms each year from 2003 until 2010 saying she was separated and living apart from her husband, the Ministry of Social Development summary of facts says.

Her dishonesty resulted in her being overpaid $132,308, the Gore District Court heard during her sentencing yesterday.

McHardy's lawyer, Carmen Jillett, said her client said she was in an abusive relationship and she asked her husband to leave when she had applied for the benefit.

"She never intended to defraud the ministry . . . she didn't want to defraud anyone, she just tells me she wanted to provide for her children."

Jillett said a prison sentence would make it difficult for McHardy to ever pay the money back.

But ministry lawyer Michael Wilson said they wanted McHardy to go to prison regardless.

She would probably only be paying back the money at $10 or $20 a week and it would never be fully repaid, he said.

"It's more important that a stern message is sent to her and the community that this type of offending isn't appropriate," Wilson said. "This woman has a history of dishonesty offences, and the question must be, who will be next? A message needs to be given to make sure she understands this is not appropriate behaviour."

McHardy's claims of domestic violence lacked credibility and proof, he said. "There may have been [some] issues in the family but it doesn't affect this matter."

Judge Christina Cook said McHardy's offending came to light when her husband died in a workplace accident in 2011, and she sought and received a substantial ACC payment.

McHardy's offending was prolonged, she had taken money from the public purse she was not entitled to, her husband was in fulltime employment at the time, and McHardy had previous history for dishonesty offences, the judge said.

She sentenced McHardy to two years prison and made a reparation order of $132,308, but said she doubted it would ever be repaid.

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