Man forged letters to boost accommodation supplement

A man who forged letters in the name of his own landlord, to boost his benefit, will take a decade to pay back the swindled cash.

Reece James McKenzie (30) appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday on five charges under the Social Security Act and two counts of using forged documents.

The benefit fraud, which took place between December 2015 and May 2018 netted the defendant more than $5000.

''In effect you stole from every taxpayer in this country,'' Judge Michael Turner said.

Twice during the period, McKenzie provided letters to Work and Income, purporting to be written by his landlord, and stating the defendant's rent was $250 a week.

When interviewed by a Ministry of Social Development investigator in June last year, McKenzie admitted he had provided false information.

The lies resulted in overpayments through ''accommodation supplements'' and ''temporary additional support'', court documents showed.

In total, McKenzie received $5299 to which he was not entitled.

Judge Turner made a reparation order for the full amount, to be repaid at $10 a week.

At that rate, it would be more than a decade before McKenzie settled the debt.

Ministry prosecutor Milton Sperring, though, was optimistic about the defendant's chances of finding work.

He told the court the man had ''great qualifications'' which could get him a driving job anywhere in the country.

''The goal for the ministry is to never have this gentleman's name across my desk again,'' he said.

Counsel Alex Bligh stressed the fraud arose through ''need, not greed''.

McKenzie was seeing more of his two children and had to spend money on them, she said.

Since her client had pleaded guilty, Ms Bligh said, he had suffered the death of his partner.

Judge Turner acknowledged the ''tragic change in circumstances'' and noted McKenzie's strong prospects of rehabilitation.

He was sentenced to nine months' intensive supervision and 130 hours' community work.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

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