Guilty pleas to ben­e­fit fraud

The Bay Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BAYLEY MOOR

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.

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