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Woman's $150,000 benefit fraud 'rare and significant'

#1 User is offline   hukildaspida 

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Posted 03 June 2016 - 04:41 PM

Nelson woman's $150,000 benefit fraud 'rare and significant'


Last updated 16:17, May 24 2016

A Nelson woman who defrauded Work and Income of nearly $150,000 over 10 years is among the country's worst offenders, a lawyer says.

Nelson District Court heard from counsel for the Ministry of Social Development's Jamie Crawford yesterday that Reubena Nonu, of Nelson, repeatedly claimed solo parent and unemployment benefits to which she was not entitled.

Between 2004 and 2014, Nonu was in a de facto relationship and held jobs at a grocery store, gas station and rest home, among other employment.

She made eight different submissions to Work and Income that she was not in a relationship between 2005 and 2012, and continued to apply for benefits into 2014.

Crawford said only five per cent of Work and Income defrauders gained $150,000, making Nonu's offending "rare and significant".

"After she moved to Nelson the offending continued so it's not such as fresh start as she makes it out to be."

Given the longevity of her offending, Crawford submitted Nonu should not be given credit for her difficult personal circumstances.

Nonu's lawyer Wayne Jones said his client had struggled to provide as the sole breadwinner for her family while carrying significant debt.

She was now working at a butcher's in Richmond, near Nelson.

She could not convince her partner of 23 years to visit Work and Income, Jones said.

Judge David Ruth said benefit fraud was as serious as any other fraud as social welfare "relies on the integrity and honesty of those accessing the public purse".

"The reality is there's no difference to any other fraud except for it's a type of fraud that is relatively easy to commit."

Nonu held back tears as she stood in the dock and heard Judge Ruth deliberate a two-year prison sentence for her crimes - eight charges of dishonestly using a document for financial gain.

However, he accepted Nonu "did not know how to live without a benefit" after so long abusing the system and recognised sending her to prison meant her partner would have to apply for a benefit to support the family.

Nonu was remorseful and did not want her two daughters to follow the same path, he said.

"You came to the realisation when they started exhibiting some of the behaviours you have."

Nonu was sentenced to 10 months' home detention and 100 hours' community service, and ordered by Judge Ruth to pay "almost trifling" reparations of $10,000.

- Stuff

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