An Auckland caregiver ripped off taxpayers for nearly $70,000 to try to get her family out of a "tin shed" they were living in, a court heard.
For five years, Rosalina Filoa Leavasa applied for income-related support for rent to which she was not entitled -- offending sparked by financial pressures and arduous living conditions.
The mother of three, who was supporting a son with epilepsy and a husband with chronic arthritis, was working seven days a week to make ends meet but still struggled, her lawyer Justin Harder said in Auckland District Court today.
For four months the family lived in a metal garage -- which he said exacerbated their medical issues -- before moving to a house in Mangere.
The judge said the compassionate grounds were the only thing that saved her from a jail term.
Mr Harder said the only way the stolen $68,000 could be repaid was if Leavasa was allowed to carry on working as a caregiver for the elderly in the upmarket suburb of Remuera.
He said his client was "deeply remorseful" and said if she was given home detention the family would lose their primary source of income and would be back living in the tin shed.
Judge Grant Fraser was reluctant to let the offender off lightly.
"Isn't that an open invitation for anyone in employment to rip off the system?" he said.
The judge was also unimpressed by Leavasa's explanation of the offending as "misunderstandings" but eventually stopped short of home detention to allow her to work and pay back some of the cash.
She was sentenced to six months of community detention, a year's supervision, 100 hours of community work and ordered to pay back $10,000.
At a rate of $40 a week, it would take Leavasa about five years to make good on the reparation.
"Ripping off the system is relatively easy and there's a reliance on honesty and trust in order to make it work appropriately," Judge Fraser said.