Eighty-three-year-old Eileen Marie Farquer fleeced the system
for quarter of a century, pocketing almost $215,000 in
The frail-looking Te Puke pensioner managed to hide her
offending for more than 25 years but her dark secret was
finally uncovered after she drove into the path of a fully
laden fuel tanker in March and ended up in hospital with
Farquer hobbled into the Tauranga District Court on Friday
with the aid of a walking stick to be sentenced on five
benefit fraud charges. She appeared bewildered and confused.
Farquer had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge each of
making a false statement and obtaining by deception and three
charges of dishonestly using a document.
Partially deaf, she needed special headphones to listen to
Judge Christopher Harding and was given permission to sit in
the witness box beside him rather than in the dock.
According to court documents, Farquer used the name Lee J.
Strauss in 1987 to get an unemployment benefit, and continued
to receive benefits in that name until June 3 - a period of
A year later she used her real name to get another
unemployment benefit which she received until December 10,
1993, when she was granted superannuation.
During that time she also filed two income review forms and
an emergency benefit application using her fake identity.
As result of the car crash south of Te Puke on March 30,
police received information that Farquer was receiving two
benefits. On May 24 police searched her Tauranga Hospital
bedroom, her site at Bledisloe Caravan Park in Little Waihi
and a storage unit in Papamoa.
During those searches police found and seized documents in
her true and fake identities.
When interviewed by the Social Development Ministry on July
19 Farquer admitted she knew what she was doing was wrong,
and had used the extra money to live and pay debt.
Farquer was overpaid $214,780.88 between April 21, 1987 and
June 3 this year that she has arranged to pay back at $10.50
The ministry opposed home detention, arguing it was an
But Farquer's lawyer Cate Andersen told Judge Harding her
client was remorseful and had offered to pay all the money
Judge Harding told Farquer he had read medical reports that
detailed her health difficulties, including her ongoing needs
as result of the crash.
"In all the circumstances I am prepared to exercise my
prerogative and show you the mercy of the court and you will
instead be sentenced to 12 months' home detention," he said.
Outside court Farquer, who was assisted from the courthouse
by her supporters into a waiting car parked close to the back
door, declined to comment.
None of her supporters would comment either.
Iona Holsted, deputy chief executive Ministry of Social
Development, said Farquer had deliberately and systematically
stolen from taxpayers for 25 years.
"We know that most of our clients are honest and meet their
obligations, but when we find people who cheat our system we
will prosecute them.
"Age is no barrier to us prosecuting those people who go out
of their way to rort the welfare system," Ms Holsted said.
"We have started to recover the money that Eileen Farquer
stole from us, and will continue for as long as it takes."