Sentence too tough says NZ's biggest benefit fraudster

The country's biggest benefit fraudster today told a bench of three Court of Appeal judges his eight-year jail sentence was too long for the $3.4 million he stole.

Wayne Thomas Patterson pleaded guilty in the High Court in Auckland last year to using 123 different identities to con the Ministry of Social Development out of $3.48m between 2003 and 2006.

He was jailed for eight years and told he would have to serve at least five years before eligible for parole.

The court was told Patterson invested most of the money, resulting in the Government getting back $467,000 more than he fraudulently took.

In the Court of Appeal in Auckland today his lawyer Chris Tennet said Patterson did not get enough credit for co-operating with authorities, or for his early guilty plea and the sentence was excessive.

Patterson had served three years of eight-year sentences for benefit fraud in both Australia and the United States, but Matthew Downs said for the Crown those sentences had not deterred him from committing similar crime in New Zealand.

He said there was a serious need to denounce his very serious conduct and deter him from similar conduct in the future.

Patterson lived in a flat in the Auckland suburb of Massey and when it was searched last year $868,000 in cash and gold ingots worth $355,000 were found.

Patterson also had six computers to keep track of his false accounts and surveillance cameras in the flat.

The search uncovered 102 forged birth certificates, 125 Inland Revenue cards and 137 ATM cards.

Much of the money Patterson had taken was tracked to accounts in Austria and Switzerland.

He conned unemployment and emergency benefits and when he claimed superannuation he used disguises and cosmetics to appear older than he was.

The Court of Appeal reserved its decision.

- NZPA

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