Couple admits hefty benefit fraud

Photo / File
Photo / File

A couple in their 50s has admitted taking nearly $180,000 in welfare benefits over 23 years.

Leslie Patricia Tataurangi, 50, and Perry Hill, 57 appeared together in Balclutha District Court sitting in Gore yesterday.

Tataurangi admitted 20 charges of benefit fraud and Hill 19, which the Ministry of Social Development said totalled $179,081.01.

The summary of facts said the offending occurred between March 1, 1989 and February 12 last year.

Tataurangi and Perry had been employed by Silver Fern Farms Ltd for less than a year and had been living in a married relationship from March 1, 1989.

The ministry said the pair were each aware of each other's status as a beneficiary and failed to inform the ministry they were living together as a married couple.

Tataurangi had completed several benefit application forms for Work and Income New Zealand and on each had said she was single or did not have a partner.

Hill had done the same.

Tataurangi told the ministry she was aware of her obligations but had not advised she was employed because she needed more money to pay her bills.

When asked why she had not advised of her de facto relationship with Hill, she said the money she received was not enough.

In an interview with ministry staff she apologised for her selfishness in taking the extra money.

Hill said he was aware of his obligations but had not advised of his employment as the Government was taking tax off him and giving it to the unemployed.

He said he did not advise of his de facto relationship because the couple would have got into trouble.

Tataurangi was charged with eight counts of wilfully omitting to tell an officer she was living in a relationship in the nature of marriage or with her partner, one of wilfully omitting to tell an officer she was working and in all cases continued to receive benefits, nine counts of using a document with intent to obtain a pecuniary advantage and two counts of using a document capable of being used to obtain a pecuniary advantage for the purpose of obtaining a pecuniary advantage with intent to defraud.

Hill was charged with 13 counts of wilfully omitting to tell an officer he was living in a relationship in the nature of marriage or with his partner and continuing to receive benefits, one of omitting to tell an officer he was working and continuing to receive benefits, and five counts of using a document with intent to obtain a pecuniary advantage.

Judge Roy Wade convicted the pair and remanded them on bail to March 4 for sentencing.

- Otago Daily Times

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