Rotorua woman admits $62,000 fraud

By Abigail Hartevelt

A Rotorua woman has admitted more than $62,000 worth of benefit fraud over 16 years.

Jacquilynne Hiria Mahara aka Turner, 46, homemaker, has appeared in the Rotorua District Court and pleaded guilty to 25 charges of fraudulently using a document to gain a pecuniary advantage, two charges of aiding her partner Norman Deane Manuriki Cole, 59, to commit a similar offence and one charge of obtaining a benefit by deception.

Cole was also due to appear in the Rotorua District Court this week on 25 charges of benefit fraud but the court was told he was in hospital. He has not entered pleas to the charges and has been remanded to appear  on November 1.

According to the summary of facts, Mahara applied for and was granted a domestic purposes benefit in October, 1988.

When she signed the application she agreed to tell the Ministry of Social Development of any changes in her circumstances, including if she got a job or  if she became  involved in a marriage-type relationship.

Over the following years she was reminded of her obligations and signed documents confirming she understood them.

As a result of information received, it was found Mahara had started living in a relationship  with Cole in August, 1990.

Between October, 1995, and September, 2011, Mahara filled out 16 documents in which she stated she was not living with a person in a relationship in the nature of a marriage and/or was single.

On none of those documents did she say Cole was living in the same house as her.

Between March, 1997, and June, 2011, Mahara filled out seven forms on which she provided a false address or incomplete information as to who she lived with. On none of those forms did she state that Cole was living in the same house.

On November 7, 2003, she said in an application she was going to get back together with the father of her new born child but didn't as he was with someone else. This was a lie as Mahara was living with Cole, who was the father, the summary said.

In March, 2006, she completed a special needs grant/advance on a benefit form, saying her boarder was meant to pay her power bill, which was  untrue.

On two occasions _ once in 2006 and once in 2009 _ she provided Cole with letters to support him getting a domestic purposes benefit.

Mahara was interviewed by ministry officials last November and she said she knew she should have told the ministry about her relationship with Cole and did not know why she had not. She said she was responsible and did not want her partner taking the blame.

She was paid $62,898.64 to which she was not entitled. Mahara has arranged to repay the money.

Judge Phillip Cooper remanded Mahara on bail for sentencing on December 5 and has requested pre-sentence and home detention reports.



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