Two well-known Tauranga motor-racing identities found guilty of defrauding ACC of more than $400,000 have each been sentenced to more than two years in jail.
Grant and Lorraine Brennan were sentenced in Tauranga District Court yesterday after being found guilty of 88 charges of using a document for pecuniary advantage - 44 charges each.
Judge Glenn Marshall found the couple guilty after a seven-week judge alone trial, which began on July 6 and ended on August 25. Yesterday he sentenced Mr Brennan to two years and 10 months' prison and Mrs Brennan to two years and five months behind bars.
The couple were supported by at least eight family members and close friends at the sentencing, including their son.
The pair embraced their tearful son before they made their way to the dock at the start of the sentencing.
On April 24, 1999 Mr Brennan sustained a head injury after being assaulted by three youths while out running. He was hospitalised overnight and treated for a mild brain injury.
He claimed ACC payments and in May 2000 ACC also approved attendant care payments be made to Mrs Brennan for seven hours a day, five a days a week. Between December 1999 and September 2011, Mr Brennan received ACC payments. Between 2000 and 2003, Mrs Brennan was paid attendant care payments for looking after her husband.
A few months after Mr Brennan was assaulted he resumed working in his workshop, building engines and carrying out work on various vehicles for customers. However, during interviews with ACC staff, occupational therapists, medical and health assessors Mr Brennan would present as severely impaired.
Crown prosecutor Richard Jenson told the court the couple had fraudulently claimed $408,703.35 over almost 12 years. Of that, $352,913.35 was weekly compensation paid to Mr Brennan and $55,790 was in attendant care payments to Mrs Brennan.
He said the couple had since paid the full amount back under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Mr Jenson argued the couple were systematic and showed a high level of dishonesty in their interactions with assessors and medical professionals.
"In terms of the offending it was lengthy and showed dishonesty ... and, by my submission, was largely without parallel in the benefit fraud context," he said.
Paul Mabey QC, acting for the Brennans, disagreed saying "fraud is fraud" and benefit fraud could not be singled out.
He said Mr and Mrs Brennan continued to maintain their innocence but had paid the reparation in full.
Judge Marshall agreed with Mr Mabey and said he was not prepared to draw distinctions between various types of fraud.
In summing up, Judge Marshall said the impression the Brennans created was that Mr Brennan was barely able to function but evidence from others he was in contact with proved that was not the case.
"This confirmed, in my view, Mr Brennan's faking of symptoms."
Judge Marshall took into account the repayment of the money and Mrs Brennan's previously clean record.
Judge Marshall said Mr Brennan was very talented at what he did and Mrs Brennan was a hard-working and knowledgeable part of the company, Brennan Racing Ltd.
"It's a tragedy, in my view, that they pursued this case with ACC of fraudulent behaviour when both of them have so much talent."
ACC spokesperson Stephanie Melville said: "ACC is satisfied with the sentences imposed, especially given the significant level of fraud involved."