A Northland woman in jail for defrauding the Transport Ministry of more than $700,000 has had an extra two months added to her jail time for benefit fraud.

Joanne Harrison, 50, a former Far North District Council manager, appeared via audio-visual link in the Kaikohe District Court today for sentence after previously pleading guilty defrauding the Ministry of Social Development of just over $6400.

She admitted to two charges of using a document for pecuniary advantage and one of obtaining a benefit by deceit.

In February Harrison was sentenced to three years and seven months sentence for defrauding the Transport Ministry of $726,000.


In sentencing Harrison today Justice Simon Maude said he had to take into consideration that and decided a two month jail term cumulative on that existing sentence was appropriate.

Maude said Harrison had deliberately planned the falsification of papers submitted to the Ministry of Social Development.

He said there were no mitigating factors.

Harrison had falsified a wage slip to show she was earning $482 a week, so she could claim a domestic purposes benefit, when she was in fact earning $1842 a week as a manager at the Department of Corrections.

When interviewed about the paperwork Harrison told investigators she had written the wrong things and made a mistake.

The offending took place while she was living in Waimate North, near Kerikeri, between December 2008 and April 2009.

She worked at the Far North District Council as a senior manager from June 2007 to October 2008.

Police are applying to seize her former home at Waimate North under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act. They have also applied to seize jewellery and vehicles.


The house was transferred to her husband, Patrick Sharp, in July 2016, shortly after the Serious Fraud Office launched its investigation.

A house in Waimate North, linked to Joanne Harrison and her husband Patrick Sharp. Photo / File
A house in Waimate North, linked to Joanne Harrison and her husband Patrick Sharp. Photo / File

Lawyer for the ministry Sheryl Manning said Harrison's fraud was detected only after government agencies shared information during their investigation of Harrison.

She said there was a moderately high degree of premeditation by Harrison.

While the amount Harrison received was not great compared to other benefit fraud offending there were no mitigating factors.

Harrison was entitled to a 25 per cent discount for her early guilty pleas but Ms Manning said the starting point should be nine months' jail.

Harrison's lawyer Nathan Bourke said a probation report described Harrison as a model prisoner who had completed a number of courses since starting her jail term.

Maude said sentences varied and there was no similar case.

He said a person with dependent children who committed benefit fraud may expect some leniency from the court compared with a some one who committed fraud for reasons of greed.

-Northern Advocate