Widow avoids jail over $213,000 ACC fraud

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A widow has escaped a jail term after defrauding the Accident Compensation Corporation of more than $213,000 in weekly compensation payments that were paid after the death of her husband.

Nelson woman Wendy Maree Whitehead, 57, had been found guilty by a jury of one charge of using a document for pecuniary advantage and seven charges of dishonestly using a document.

She was sentenced yesterday in the Nelson District Court to 10 months' home detention and 160 hours of community service, ACC general manager of claims management Sid Miller said.

Whitehead repaid the $213,397.87 before her sentencing.

In June 1987, Whitehead's husband died in a farming accident and she was paid weekly compensation by ACC based on her late husband's income.

This was to continue until she turned 65, remarried or entered into a de facto relationship, Mr Miller said.

To continue receiving weekly compensation, Whitehead was required to complete annual dependency forms, which required information on marital and de facto status.

In 2003, she entered into a de facto relationship, but continued to state that she had not married or remarried and had not entered into a relationship with a person which was in the nature of a marriage, Mr Miller said.

Whitehead's weekly compensation payments were stopped in August 2010, after she admitted to ACC investigators she had been living, holidaying and having an intimate relationship with her new partner.

Mr Miller said it was always disappointing when people chose to abuse the ACC scheme for financial gain.

"ACC collects levies to help people with genuine injury-related needs. Ms Whitehead's offending therefore amounts to theft from honest, hard-working New Zealanders," he said.

- APNZ

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