Nearly 600 local fraud convictions in a year

By Brendan Manning

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Nearly 600 fraud convictions have been handed down in Rotorua in the past financial year, the vast majority for obtaining by deception.

Bay of Plenty police district spokeswoman Kim Perks said the most common offending investigated locally tended to be credit card and Eftpos fraud. Many of the cases resulted from cards being stolen in burglaries or from insecure vehicles, she said.

"In addition, police in Bay of Plenty continue to see a variety of email scams suggesting that the receiver of the email is a beneficiary or a prizewinner and they need to part with some money in order to release the funds.

"These scams generally originate from overseas. Police continue to remind people that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is."

Figures from Statistics New Zealand show 580 fraud convictions were handed down in the past financial year in the Rotorua court cluster - which includes Taupo, Tokoroa and Taumarunui - down from 636 in the previous financial year.

Nearly all last year's fraud convictions (560) were for people obtaining by deception - "the use of deception or impersonation with the intent of dishonestly obtaining property, goods or services, or other benefit".

However, six convictions were handed down for deceptive business/government practices, three for forgery and counterfeiting, and 11 for other fraud and deception offences.

In December, a 59-year-old man was sentenced at Rotorua District Court on 25 benefit fraud charges for offending which occurred over a 16-year period.

Norman Deane Manuriki Cole received $83,000 in benefits he wasn't entitled to and which could have gone to those who needed it, Judge Phil Gittos said.

Cole was sentenced to 12 months' home detention and 250 hours' community work.

Cole's partner, Jacquilynne Hiria Mahara aka Turner, was also sentenced after admitting to more than $62,000 of benefit fraud over 16 years.

Nationally, 13,349 convictions were handed down for fraud last financial year - an increase on the previous 12 months.

Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive Iona Holsted said each year the ministry administered around $16 billion of social assistance.

More than $23 million in benefit fraud was detected in the past financial year and 714 successful benefit fraud prosecutions carried out by the Ministry.

Ms Holsted said an intelligence unit based in Wellington matched data with six other government agencies to identify and investigate benefit fraud, checking millions of records each year.

The Ministry also had around 100 fraud investigators working to catch benefit cheats, she said.

Those who stole from taxpayers were taking money from individuals and communities which genuinely needed it, Ms Holsted said.

"Benefit fraud will not be tolerated.

"Those who take what's not theirs and who meet the threshold for prosecution will be put before the courts."

The Serious Fraud Office uncovered over $2.2 billion of fraud last financial year. The figure encompassed the investigation into South Canterbury Finance - the largest New Zealand fraud case of its kind. Twenty-one charges were laid against five individuals totalling $1.8 billion.

To avoid being tricked or cheated out of money, police advise dealing only with well-known and respected financial institutions. To protect yourself against identity crime, police recommend shredding all documentation containing personal information, especially bank and credit card statements and old bills.

Make sure you have password access codes on computers that are changed regularly and are not easily figured out like phone numbers or car registrations, and be careful who you give personal information to.


Rotorua court cluster fraud convictions:

Obtain benefit by deception 560 (2011/12) 574 (2010/11)

Forgery and counterfeiting 3 (2011/12) 21 (2010/11)

Deceptive business/Government practices 6 (2011/12) 2 (2010/11)

Other fraud and deception offences 11 (2011/12) 39 (2010/11)

Total fraud convictions 580 (2011/12) 636 (2010/11)

Most common fraud offences in Rotorua (2011/12)

1 Take/obtain/use doc for pecuniary advantage.

2 Mislead info to obtain benefit/finance.

3 Obtain by deception (under $500).

4 Obtain by deception (over $1000).

5 Misleading a social welfare officer.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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