This is Gwenda Christine Bush, one of New Zealand's most prolific fraudsters. During the past 40 years she has amassed more than 600 dishonesty convictions, filling 57 pages of a court file, for using fabricated sob stories to rip off charities. Yesterday, she was sentenced to 12 months' home detention for her latest scam - a 12-year rort where she obtained almost $6000 in food parcels, furniture and other assistance from the Salvation Army. The Herald can now reveal details of the 63-year-old's life of crime and, supported by Judge Jonathan Down in a bid to protect the public from being conned by Bush in future, publish her photograph.
In the entire ten years that I've been a police officer, this is the most abhorrent type of fraud that I've investigated.Among the names she assumed were Barbara Kaihe, Gwenda Wright, Gwen Bush-Rose, Linda Wright, Gwen Hendry, Gweneth Henry and Lynn Stevens. She was even given $300 of a staff member's personal money after convincing the woman she had cancer and the only treatment option was a new drug that cost $3000 up front and then $1500 monthly. In August 2014, a staff member became suspicious of Bush and police were called. Police investigated and confirmed there were no domestic violence reports involving Bush or any of her aliases and that she does not and has never had cancer nor received any treatment for cancer. When interviewed, Bush told police she lied about details "to get the goods and food from Salvation Army". In total Bush was given $5936 worth of food and goods.
Her lies were appalling and she has done a disservice to the many genuine people who need help from organisations like the Salvation Army.Bush's lawyer, Helen Pryde, urged Judge Down to sentence the fraudster to home detention. She said Bush had health issues, including needing heart surgery to treat angina and an operation on an ankle injured in a car accident. Ms Pryde had a letter of support from pastor Fred Needham from the Assembly of God Church in Glenfield. Bush joined the congregation after her arrest and had "confessed her history and her previous lies". Mr Needham, who was also in court yesterday, believed if Bush continued her relationship with the church she could live a crime-free life. Judge Down said Bush's relationship with the church did not fill him with "great confidence". In fact, it caused him great concern. "It seems to me to be yet another example of a long life of dishonesty. "It seems to be very likely that you have gone through the process of [joining the church] for the purpose of convincing the court that you have changed and you can be trusted. I find that very difficult to accept."
(You have) 57 pages of convictions, mostly for dishonesty... the worst list of previous convictions I have ever seen in 35 years in the criminal justice system.Judge Down said Bush's criminal history was "appalling". "[You have] 57 pages of convictions, mostly for dishonesty ... the worst list of previous convictions I have ever seen in 35 years in the criminal justice system." He said Bush, who has two children, started offending in the 70s. Judge Down considered sending Bush back to prison, but noted none of her earlier lags had made a difference to her offending. He did not know if there was any point in sending her again and thought the restrictions of home detention, which she had not served before, might be more beneficial. "Someone who is such a repeat and recidivist offender cannot really expect any less than imprisonment. "But on the other hand, she has been sent to prison so many times in the past it hasn't made any difference," the judge said. He sentenced Bush to 12 months' home detention followed by six months of special conditions. "However, if you breach it or you commit further offending during home detention or post-detention conditions you will be brought back to court and you will be resentenced to a term of imprisonment."