Face of the day

Eileen Marie Farquer, who likes to be known as Lara Brown, was once wanted by the FBI.

Today’s face of the day could have been a Green MP given her colourful history.

She is a runaway mum, a fugitive from the FBI and a benefit cheat.

[…] She made headlines when she was convicted of benefit fraud at 83 – but there was much more to the story of Eileen Farquer.

When I first met Eileen Marie Farquer, or Lara Brown as everyone in the small seaside settlement of Little Waihi knew the 83-year-old, she was on home D, an electronic bracelet strapped around her scrawny leg.

That was in 2013, and she’d recently been busted for benefit fraud for collecting $215,000 over 25 years under the fake name Lee Strauss.

She was an hilarious old chook, complaining that she’d become a “hero” to all the wrong kinds of people.

“Everybody feels it’s OK to rip off the Government. If I’d ripped off a little old lady, I’d be stoned to death. But the Government? ‘They’ve got plenty of money,'” she said.

She’d only been caught because she’d driven into the path of a fully-laden fuel tanker near Te Puke the previous year. As she was being “scraped off the road” police discovered cards in the false name.

[…] As an adult, she’d travelled the world, she said, sailing on yachts, once appearing in a feature article in Playboy magazine. “They took some brilliant photos of me on a sloop.”

Forget being a Green MP this woman could have been PM with her ” brilliant photos” in a well-known magazine.

She was paying back the stolen money at $10.50 a week, which she said was insulting to the taxpayer: “We all know I’m never gonna pay it, I won’t live that long. Unless I win Lotto.”

[…] Then, out of the blue in November, an email arrived from a woman called Kim MacIsaac, of Marietta, Georgia in the US.

“This is going to sound complicated,” it began, referencing my 2013 article about Farquer. “How much do you know about her and her case?  I’m desperately trying to find her, and here’s why.”

What followed was a fascinating tale about a woman who abandoned her family in America in the 1950s and set off on adventures around the world, becoming an FBI fugitive in the process.[…]

 – Sunday Magazine


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