Guilty pleas to benefit fraud
Joanne Harrison, a former senior manager convicted of stealing $726,000 from the Ministry of Transport, has pleaded guilty to three charges of benefit fraud.
Harrison is serving three years and seven months in jail for fleecing the government of $726,000 after her complex web of deception was unravelled.
On October 31, she entered guilty pleas to two charges of using a document for pecuniary advantage and one charge of obtaining a benefit by deceit at the Kaikohe District Court.
Ministry of Social Development lawyer Sheryl Manning said the ministry was seeking a cumulative sentence in relation to the charges.
Manning said Harrison stated she was earning $482 gross income a week, to claim a Domestic Purposes Benefit ( DPB), when in fact she was earning $1842 a week in gross income.
In total Harrison, also known as Joanne Sharp and Joanne Sidebottom, claimed $6444.13 from the benefit she was not entitled to.
Manning said Harrison falsified a wage verification slip from the Department of Corrections, where she worked at the time of the offending, to obtain the benefit.
Harrison appeared at the Kaikohe District Court via audiovisual link on October 31 from the Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility.
Harrison is due to be sentenced on December 6 on the benefit fraud charges, where she will appear in the Kaikohe District Court via audio-link at her request. The charges come with a maximum prison sentence of seven years.
She first appeared on the benefit fraud charges in September.
Harrison fleeced the Ministry of Transport of $726,000 and was sentenced to three years and seven months in jail in February, after charges were laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
The benefit fraud offending occurred in Kerikeri between December 8 2008 and April 9, 2009. A request was made for the matter to be transferred to the New Plymouth District Court.
However Judge Greg Davis said ‘‘There is a long-standing principle that sentencing should occur where the offending took place’’.
Harrison has been in custody since August 2016. The Parole Board declined an application by Harrison for parole on October 4.