A Hamilton woman has been convicted of ripping off $83,116 in Housing New Zealand benefits.
Sandie Moana Tanoa, 52, faced 10 charges of using a Housing NZ income-related rent form for financial advantage.
The offending occurred between March 31, 2003, and March 2011.
During a four-day hearing in Hamilton District Court this week, Housing NZ claimed Tanoa was not living in her Maeroa house during the alleged offending period.
Neighbours were the instigators of the prosecution. They got in touch with Housing NZ after hardly ever seeing Tanoa at her property for several years.
They also complained about the property being unkept, especially the back lawn.
The department claimed Tanoa did not want to reveal her true situation - that she was staying at her partner's house - as she would not only lose her reduced-rent house but her domestic purposes benefit, which she got until 2008.
She then began receiving the sickness benefit, disability allowance and, from 2009, a study allowance. Over the eight years, the department claimed Tanoa had received funds of $83,116.
Tanoa did not dispute most of the department's claim.
Her defence was that she did not do it to rip off the system and said she spent most nights of the week there, between 1.30am and 6.50am.
She also claimed that due to "study and other commitments" she spent little time there during the day.
But power bill records showed minimal use at the home.
Tanoa said she would use power for her appliances, but did not need to turn the lights on.
Judge Barney Thomas said that contradicted her own, earlier, evidence that she would be at the house between 1.30am and 6.50am.
Judge Thomas did not accept most of her evidence, or that of her witnesses.
He found that the department had proven the charges beyond reasonable doubt, but only between 2006 and 2011.
"I find that you spent no more than a handful of nights per month at [the Maeroa house] from 2006 to 2011.
"That does not amount to living [there] all the time."
The remaining three charges were dismissed.
Tanoa was convicted and remanded on bail.
She will be sentenced in January.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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