A Masterton woman has been found guilty of fraudulently receiving more than $127,000 in benefit payments.
A judge found that for eight years Keriana Sandra Reiri, 41, failed to tell Work and Income she was in a "relationship in the nature of marriage" with the father of her four children, and had claimed $127,274 in domestic purposes benefits and other assistance she was not entitled to.
In a reserved decision issued after a two-day trial in Masterton District Court last month, Judge Bill Hastings found Reiri guilty of 11 counts of using a document to obtain financial advantage and one charge of misleading a social welfare officer between 2005 and 2013.
Judge Hastings said power bills, bank accounts and phone bills presented by prosecution showed Neville Robert Graham, the father of Reiri's children, had a "degree of responsibility ... for the household expenses".
"There is ample evidence from Mr Schultz's analysis of the transfers between accounts, of transfers to creditors' and suppliers' accounts, and the reciprocal signing authorities to demonstrate a mutual willingness to support each other and the children when the need arose."
Judge Hastings drew attention to statements made by Mr Graham under cross-examination, during which Mr Graham had said any money he gave to Reiri was "all for my kids, mate - done it all for my kids".
"It is difficult to see how he [Mr Graham] can separate what he was doing for the children from helping Ms Reiri when it was Ms Reiri who was raising the children and he would look after them after school. 'Doing it for the children' can only be interpreted as 'doing it for Ms Reiri and the children' because Ms Reiri was such a vital part of the children's lives."
Judge Hastings also noted what he called a "somewhat clumsy recovery attempt" made by Mr Graham under cross-examination, during which he appeared to refer to Reiri's house as his own, saying "I've just got my son at home or at her house in Masterton and that's it".
In determining the nature of the relationship between Reiri and Mr Graham, Judge Hastings said proving an emotional commitment was more important than establishing whether there was a sexual relationship, or whether the pair lived under the same roof. As well as the financial support provided to Reiri, Mr Graham had named Reiri as his next-of-kin on forms after the death of his mother, Judge Hastings said.
"In his mind, she was the next best thing to his mother when it came to declaring who would assume responsibility in the event of emergency, injury or death. This demonstrates a significant level of trust and emotional commitment."
"While there may not have been any overt holding of hands or other public displays of affection, neither gave any indication to friends, work colleagues and neighbours that they were not a couple."
Reiri is due to be sentenced at the Masterton District Court on November 17.