A Masterton woman has been sentenced to community detention for defrauding Work and Income of more than $25,000.

Charni Chaparni Cleary, 35, was sentenced to two months' community detention and 60 hours' community work after being found guilty of one count of wilfully omitting to tell Work and Income she was in a relationship, and nine charges of using a document to claim $25,649 in benefits she was not entitled to.

Cleary had pleaded not guilty to all charges but was found guilty at a judge-alone trial in Wellington in March.

At her sentencing last month, Judge Peter Hobbs said that despite living with the man, who is the father of one of her children, she had said he "was nothing more than a friend and support person".


The offending occurred between 2012 and 2014, during which time Cleary completed several Work and Income forms that stated she was single.

However evidence at the trial had "overwhelmingly" shown Cleary to be in a relationship with the man.

"The objective evidence was, in my view, clear that you were living under the same roof and you were living in a relationship in the nature of marriage."

Aggravating features were the extended period of time over which the offending occurred, and its premeditated nature, Judge Hobbs said.

"The social welfare system relies very much on the honesty of those who benefit from that system and, in this case, you failed in your obligations in that regard."

In handing down a sentence, Judge Hobbs said he took into account that she had already lost her job as a chef as a result of her obligations to attend court.

He imposed a seven-day curfew between 11pm to 7am, but did not make a reparation order as Cleary had already made arrangements to pay back Work and Income.