More may be charged in $375,000 benefit fraud case

By Edward Gay

The man, 48, and woman, 51, both beneficiaries, appeared in the Manukau District Court today in connection with the fraud, which police allege is worth $375,000. Photo / NZ Herald
The man, 48, and woman, 51, both beneficiaries, appeared in the Manukau District Court today in connection with the fraud, which police allege is worth $375,000. Photo / NZ Herald

Authorities are mulling whether to charge up to 280 beneficiaries for their alleged role in a deception that has cost taxpayers $375,000.

The couple alleged to be at the centre of a Work and Income deception appeared in Manukau District Court today where they faced six charges relating to the alleged scam dating back to 2011.

The pair, aged 48 and 51, won interim name suppression after their lawyer argued they needed time to speak to their family members about the charges.

Judge David Ruth remanded them on bail to their Papatoetoe home but said the name suppression order would lapse next Tuesday.

They would not comment as they left court and held paper and clothing items up to hide their faces.

It is understood the pair allegedly used 280 beneficiaries to approach Work and Income for emergency relief loans for dental and optometry work.

The pair then allegedly supplied the beneficiaries with fake documents to make it look like the work had been carried out and they received a 25 per cent cut.

According to police charge sheets, the couple allegedly used false documents to also get Work and Income payments for whiteware and furniture.

The beneficiaries have been left with the bill and Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows said the money would be deducted from benefit payments.

"We're bloody getting that money back,'' he said.

Asked if the beneficiaries would also be facing charges, Mr Borrows said that would be a matter for staff at the Ministry of Social Development to decide but in some cases it may not make sense to carry out an expensive prosecution.

He said the average amount of the emergency loans was $300.

Mr Borrows said a similar case could not be repeated because ministry staff now carried out checks on the people who claimed to perform emergency dental work.

Detective Inspector Mark Gutry said police were aware others were involved but their focus was on the ``principal offenders''.

Asked about the scale of the alleged offending, he said: "They're all different. We see some big ones and small ones. This one is certainly significant.''

The couple are due back in court next month.

- NZ Herald

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