Key Points:

A widowed mother of two wept as she was sentenced to eight months jail for social welfare benefit frauds the judge assessed at $49,000.

Tania Roshini Prasad faced nine benefit fraud charges involving a total of $94,000 when the case was heard before Judge Michael Green in the Christchurch District Court last month.

Defence counsel Denise Johnston argued at that stage that there was no case to answer on several of the charges, and Prasad was discharged on three and remanded on bail for sentence on the remaining six today.

She successfully argued that a weekly compensation payment received from ACC for one of her children, after the death of the father, was a payment to the child and did not need to be declared by Miss Prasad, who was receiving a widow's benefit.

Today's sentencing included a hearing on how much money remained as overpayment, and Judge Green ruled the figure was $49,000.

He said Prasad, 37, was an intelligent woman who knew what she was doing. She had incorrectly told social welfare in February 2001 that she was no longer receiving ACC payments, and this had led to her receiving money that she was not entitled to.

He questioned Ministry of Social Development prosecutor Richard Williams about how Prasad had been given bad advice by an official to transfer from the domestic purposes benefit to a widow's benefit, and this had affected the way her ACC income was assessed.

He accepted the ministry's assurance that it would take into account the fact that for three years Prasad had not received money she ought to have been entitled to. Mrs Johnston put that figure at a total of $16,500.

The ministry does not ask for reparations orders from the courts, but has power to recover money directly from convicted offenders.