The daughter of former Whanganui politician Rana Waitai has been jailed for fraud.
Rayna Nicola Huatahi Waitai was so ensconced in her gambling addiction that she faked paternity documents to get Working For Families benefits.
However, the Whanganui woman's fraud did not last long as the victim started to notice "liable parent contributions" coming out of his pay packet.
It was just one of the many ways Waitai, 41, tried to get extra cash to fund her gambling habit which, she told Hamilton District Court last week, she was still struggling to keep under control.
During a period of nearly three years, she managed to steal about $41,000 from both the Inland Revenue Department and Ministry for Social Development.
Waitai filed for a number of benefits she wasn't entitled to while on the Domestic Purposes Benefit, including claiming that she had care of two of her children when they were living in Australia.
She received $28,085.35 from the Ministry for Social Development until she was finally busted in December 2014.
With her Inland Revenue offending, Waitai used other people's names to claim income tax refunds.
But it was the paternity fraud that most disturbed Judge Robert Spear.
"His signature had the appearance of being witnessed by [his] mother," the judge said. "This man suddenly found that his wages were to be deducted with a liable parent contribution and he then had to go through the process of convincing the IRD that this was not correct.
"That was eventually determined by handwriting analysis."
Her deception even led to the courtroom after she failed to own up to Judge Spear during a sentence indication in January that she had 25 outstanding Ministry of Social Development charges that were still sitting in the Whanganui District Court.
"What I was not impressed by was the fact we went through the sentencing indication hearing and was not made at all aware of all these social welfare charges."
Judge Spear said the case hinged on whether she should be jailed.
"This was repetitive offending over a period of about three years. There was a significant level of sophistication, particularly in relation to the tax charges but also to an extent the rather brazen activity involved in presenting the false paternity."
Aggravating her situation was the fact Waitai committed further IRD frauds while on bail for earlier IRD offending.
Waitai's lawyer, Jacqui Higgins, told Judge Spear that her client had begun to turn her life around since being charged - she had moved to Hamilton and got a fulltime job with Fulton Hogan as a machine operator and would be able to pay reparation if she didn't get sent to jail.
She was also a mother of four children, two of whom were living her, she said, and she had no previous convictions.
"This is a woman who is now 41 so there has been some considerable time of good character. She accepts that she slipped up and puts it down to her gambling habit," Ms Higgins said.
However, Judge Spear said while he appreciated her efforts in turning her life around, he needed to send a strong message that the courts would not put up with those who cheat the system. "It is necessary to note the seriousness of this offending and to send a proper message of deterrence ... to others who might consider that the tax system and the benefit system are easy targets, and if they get caught ripping it off all that will happen is that they will get community work ... home detention.
"There must be a deterrent message imposed ... particularly for offending as extensive and as sophisticated as this," Judge Spear said.
Waitai was sentenced to 18 months' prison.
- Retired Whanganui solicitor Rana Waitai was elected to Parliament in 1996 as New Zealand First MP for the Maori seat of Te Puku O Te Whenua. In 1998, when New Zealand First splintered, he was one of the eight MPs who left the party, eventually joining with four other MPs to form the Mauri Pacific party.