Home detention for benefit fraudster

By Abigail Hartevelt


A Rotorua woman has been sentenced to 12 months' home detention after she admitted more than $62,000 of benefit fraud over 16 years.

Jacquilynne Hiria Mahara aka Turner, 46, homemaker, appeared for sentencing in the Rotorua District Court this week after previously pleading 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.

Liat Cohen, who appeared on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development, told the court Mahara was overpaid $148,000 but that amount had been reduced to $69,898 for sentencing purposes. The difference would have been the amount she would have been paid had she told the Ministry of Social Development the truth and had received some other kind of benefit.

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.

Between March 1997 and June 2011, Mahara filled out seven forms on which she provided a false address or incomplete information on who she lived with.

On two occasions she provided Cole with letters to support him getting a domestic purposes benefit.

The court was previously told that Mahara was repaying the money.

Mahara's lawyer, Douglas Hall, said Mahara was remorseful and her offending was not a case of greed but of need.

"She was struggling to get by."

Cole had been absent for long periods of time and Mahara has four children, one of whom suffered from rheumatic fever. Mahara had done her best to support her family and there was no steady cashflow.

She acknowledged that what she had done was wrong and said she would not get involved in this type of offending again.

Ms Cohen said she rejected that there was not a steady cashflow. She said Mahara and Cole, who is due to be sentenced on December 12, were overpaid more than $300,000 between them.

Judge Peter Spiller said the starting point was three years' jail but he reduced that to two years to give her credit for her guilty plea and remorse.

Judge Spiller said he would convert the two years' jail to 12 months' home detention and also sentenced her to 150 hours' community work.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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