Home detention for quake fraud

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 07:21 01/02/2013

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A property developer has endangered her earthquake damage claims of $1.5 million because she made fraudulent claims totalling about $30,000.

Krishna Rani Saha, 56, has repaid losses of $13,562 from her offending, but the Crown says her fraudulent claims listed in the indictment totalled about $30,000. Not all of it was paid out.

Earthquake Commission investigators at her Christchurch District Court sentencing put the total for all her fraudulent claims at about $40,000.

Saha was sentenced to six months' home detention.

She had damaged and uninsured properties, and civil claims may be required to get the remaining legitimate insurance payouts, defence counsel Andrew Riches said.

Saha had provided accommodation to people in need at the 10 properties she rented out.

"She is mortified that her life's work has effectively been ruined by these fraudulent actions," Riches told Judge Gary MacAskill.

The public interest in the case had affected her reputation and cost her friends.

The judge refused to accept a personal cheque as reparation payment and insisted that a bank cheque be provided before sentencing.

Saha, who was originally charged under the name Hazard, went to leave the dock at the sentencing to write the cheque for $13,562, but the judge stopped her.

"A cheque won't do," he said.

He needed to be sure that the payment had been made before he would allow any reduction in her sentence for the repayment.

"I am not going to be caught by that. I have been told by a Queen's Counsel [in another case] that reparation will be paid and it wasn't, and I have given that accused credit," he said. "I appreciate it's an inconvenience, but this money would have to be paid in a way that gives me security that it could not be undone."

Riches said he had advised Saha not to make her payment until the amount had been finalised.

Because of the judge's comments, he asked for the case to be delayed about an hour so that a bank cheque could be arranged.

Saha had admitted 18 charges relating to false insurance claims for quake damage. They include charges of forgery, obtaining by deception, altering a document, dishonestly using a document and making a false declaration.

The offending involved false claims for repairs or payments for loss of rent.

When the court resumed, Riches provided the bank cheque.

In this case, the fraud had occurred in a situation where Hazard was making claims on her 10 properties totalling about $1.5m when driveway damage was included.

Her remaining claims were looking doubtful because the insurance companies were "not her best friends right now", he said.

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