A woman who ripped off taxpayers for more than $300,000 over 17 years would take 587 years to pay back the stolen funds.

Meivisi Taufa, 50, was jailed for three years after admitting 13 benefit-fraud charges and had been recently paying back $10 a week.At Auckland District Court this afternoon, Judge Grant Fraser said paying back the full sum was "well beyond your ability and your longevity" and ordered reparation of only $6000 - leaving taxpayers with a shortfall of about $295,000.

Taufa - who also goes by the names Mavis Taufa, Mavis Maumalangi, Mavis Maumalonga, Mavis Faleola, Mavis Manufekau, Mavis Lesaisaea, Meivisi Maumalangi, Meivisi Maumalonga, Meivisi Faleola, Meivisi Manufekau and Meivisi Lesaisaea - began applying for money she was not entitled to in 1996.By the end of 2012 she had submitted nearly 50 different documents containing false details, which kept the money rolling in.

Her lawyer Mary-Anne Lowe said the evidence provided to her by the prosecution filled 10 folders in two large office boxes.

Advertisement

Taufa told probation she had a gambling problem but had defrauded the Ministry of Social Development because she felt like the state owed her something.

"You have a seemingly entrenched sense of entitlement in regards to the New Zealand government and to taxpayers' funds, and it's only recently you realised it's 'not my money'," Judge Fraser read from the report.

He refused to disclose in open court why she had developed that attitude but referenced Taufa's mental-health issues, which had been documented in a number of reports.

However, he struggled to find a link between her psychological hardship and her offending.

Prosecutor Seung Youn said it was "one of the most serious cases the ministry has had" but Ms Lowe said there was scope for a sentence of home detention and community work.

Judge Fraser disagreed, highlighting the scale of the offending and the breach of trust involved.

"The $300,000 you gained could have impacted dramatically on others who were worthy of benefits but you have deprived taxpayers, who work hard to pay their taxes, of a significant sum," he said.

"Benefit fraud is easy and the system relies on honesty, and in this case there was an egregious and flagrant breach of trust."

Advertisement

Ms Lowe made an 11th-hour bid for name suppression for Taufa but Judge Fraser said any suggestion of extreme hardship was not made out.

BENEFIT-FRAUD PROSECUTIONS

2013-2014

• Total prosecutions: 893

• Successful prosecutions: 868

• Total debt prosecuted: $31,078,245

2012-2013
• Total prosecutions: 957
• Successful prosecutions: 906
• Total debt prosecuted: $32,619,374

2011-2012
• Total prosecutions: 878
• Successful prosecutions: 838
• Total debt prosecuted: $22,503,511

(Source: Ministry of Social Development)