Gran jailed for fraud
A 65-year-old Tokoroa grandmother has been sentenced to 20 months imprisonment after earlier admitting benefit fraud of more then $140,000.
The case is thought to be biggest of its kind to appear before the Tokoroa District Court.
Alicia Martha Kalotau appeared before Judge Christopher McGuire last week on 19 charges of using a document for pecuniary advantage and one charge of wilful omission.
The offending occurred between February 1999 to November 2009.
Kalotau, who had received the domestic purposes benefit (DPB) and invalid’s benefit from Work and Income New Zealand, failed to tell her case manager that she was married and living with her partner of almost 14 years.
Kalotau’s husband Gordon Rhind was charged and convicted for his part in the fraud and sentenced last week to 80 hours’ community work.
Ministry of Social Development public affairs manager Bronwyn Saunders said she was pleased with the sentence handed down to Kalotau.
‘‘ Ms Kalotau knowingly lied about her circumstances and did so for a prolonged period of time.
‘‘I am pleased she has been held to account for her offending and sentenced accordingly.
‘‘This sends a strong message to all New Zealand taxpayers, that we will continue to support those honest people who genuinely need our help, by catching the cheats.’’
Ms Saunders said crime did not pay. ‘‘Ms Kalotau and her family are now paying the price for this fraud.’’
Kalotau was caught after the ministry received a tip-off from the public in October 2009.
Kalotau was interviewed by an investigator in November 2009 and immediately admitted her offending.
While receiving the DPB Kalotau also obtained from Work and Income New Zealand an accommodation supplement, special benefit and a disability allowance. In 2003 she was transferred to the invalid’s benefit and also received a disability allowance, accommodation supplement and temporary additional support.
Kalotau suffers from a musculosketal system disorder.
The total amount of Kalotau’s offending came to $146,835.44.
Kalotau’s offending began in Auckland, she then moved to Rotorua before she settled in Tokoroa.
Kalotau is making weekly payments to repay the debt.