Are some benefit fraudsters more equal than others?

Matthew John Roberts was sentenced to five months’ community detention in the Napier District Court yesterday for his involvement in benefit fraud totalling more than $36,000. Photo / Duncan Brown
Hawkes Bay Today

Guest Post:

Yesterday Chelsea Hibben and John Roberts were sentenced in the Napier District Court after pleading guilty to benefit fraud and using a document to obtain a pecuniary advantage. ??Both received 5 months of community detention with curfews between 6 pm and 6 am with Hibben receiving an additional nine months of supervision and Roberts an additional 80 hours of community work.

The pair defrauded the New Zealand taxpayer of more than $36,000 in offending which Judge Bridget Mackintosh described as ?serious? and involving ?a breach of trust because it is the taxpayers that are paying the benefits and, of course, if you?re telling lies to get money you?re not entitled to; money that is hard-earned by members of the community.?

Hibben?s and Roberts? offending came to light after the pair separated in February 2017 which resulted in the MSD reviewing previously submitted documentation from the pair which declared both were single and Hibben admitted that she was aware of her obligations but hadn?t told the ministry because she knew the benefit would stop at the time the documentation was submitted.

It took the Ministry 12 months to carry out their investigation, lay charges, and obtain a court date for the trial and sentencing to occur. Six months has?now passed since Metiria Turei confessed to her similar offending and made promises to repay the Taxpayer for her offending which was estimated by the Taxpayers Union as being at least $57,000.

fraud metiria turei

As of last month, both the Ministry and Metiria Turei were?refusing to comment on her case or whether the debt had been repaid. ?Former colleague and Green Party Member, David Clendon, however, described there being a fine line between Metiria?s privacy and public interest…

“I would expect there would be some sort of information that would come into the public domain if for no other reason than to retain the integrity of the system. Obviously, there’s a huge public interest.”

Taxpayers of New Zealand must be beginning to wonder (if they haven?t been already) whether we are all equal in the eye of the law or whether under this Labour-led Government some of us are more equal than others?