A Napier mother who stole more than $300,000 from the Government has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Maureen Kempton, 55, pleaded guilty to 31 charges of benefit fraud and one charge of willfully omitting information with the intention to mislead on November 5.

She appeared yesterday at Napier District Court via video link from prison, before Judge Geoff Rea sentenced her to three years and two months behind bars for the fraud totaling $335,174.31.

Judge Rea said aside from professional fraudsters Kempton's crime was "among the highest figures that has been before the courts [of New Zealand]".

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Kempton's fraudulent activities started in 1992 when she applied for a domestic purposes benefit, after separating from her husband a few days prior.

Between February 1990 and June 1992 she rented a Housing NZ property in Napier, but after becoming eligible for a larger house because of her financial and personal circumstances, she moved and paid a reduced income-related rent. In September 2006, she moved into another Housing NZ house where she also paid reduced rent.

Assigned defence counsel Megan Inwood said Kempton's crimes were not done for "personal gain or some larger life style".

She said the fraud was done to "ensure some security for [Kempton] and her five children".

From 1992 until this year, Kempton was overpaid a total of $195,821.74 in benefits and also paid $139,352.57 less in rent payments.

The Ministry of Social Development found Kempton had re-formed her relationship with her husband later in 1992, and the couple moved into their larger state house together.

However, Kempton completed all her Housing NZ documents by falsely declaring she was not married or living with a person in a relationship, or that she did not have a partner and was living apart.

The Ministry sought reparation for the entire amount of overpaid benefits, but Judge Geoff Rea said Kempton was in no position to repay the money and did not make a reparation order, instead asking the Ministry to retrieve the funds "in the best way it sees fit".

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