A young Taranaki couple who cooked up an Outrageous Fortune-style insurance fraud by burgling their own home have been sentenced to community work.
Samantha Jane Smart, 25, and Hayden James Smart, 26, of Bell Block, appeared in the New Plymouth District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to a charge of obtaining by deception.
The couple plotted with their Napier mate, Michael Holland, 26, to carry out a burglary of their rented Eltham home.
The couple then fraudulently claimed $44,933.70 from their AMI insurance company for the "break-in".
Yesterday, the Smarts' defence lawyer, Kylie Pascoe, asked for the couple to be sentenced to a fine.
The couple deserved credit for their early guilty plea, paying back their insurance company in full and leading a formerly blameless life, she said.
The couple could find no real reason for embarking on the fraud and would ask "forever and a day" why they did it, Ms Pascoe said.
However, there was never any intention to use the money to buy a house with the insurance money as police alleged, she said. Rather, they bought their Bell Block home with the help of family.
Neither had been before the court before, both were in employment and they had two young children.
The media coverage had had a significant impact, causing them and their families embarrassment and humiliation. They would struggle in future to gain insurance coverage, Ms Pascoe said.
Judge Patrick Treston said the charge was regarded seriously as indicated by the maximum seven-year jail sentence.
The judge rejected a fine as "inappropriate and inadequate" because of the premeditation involved and the large amount lost by the insurance company.
He acknowledged, from the referee letters he had read, that the act was out of character" for the couple. He also gave them credit for their guilty pleas. They were ordered to serve 250 hours of community work.
Their co-offender, Holland, is to be sentenced on October 9 in the Napier District Court.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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