Pair in court over $375,000 fraud

 A couple alleged to have ripped off taxpayers to the tune of $375,000 in Work and Income payments have been allowed to keep their names secret for now.

The pair, aged 48 and 51, each face six charges of deception.

In Manukau District Court today Judge David Ruth granted them suppression so they could tell their family members.

Duty lawyer Shane Cassidy told the court that the man had an elderly mother and a number of adult children.

"He wants to be able to sit his family down and tell them what he has been charged with."

Judge Ruth remanded the pair on bail to reappear next month.

The couple allegedly used false documents to receive Work and Income payments. They each allegedly took a 25 per cent cut of every payment, with a total of $375,000 being paid out since December 2011.

According to police charge sheets, the couple allegedly used false documents to also get Work and Income payments for emergency dental treatment, optometry, whiteware and furniture.

Some of the people the couple allegedly used to apply for the loans were also named in the charge sheets.

Their Papatoetoe home was raided by police yesterday morning following an investigation launched after a tip-off from the Ministry of Social Development early last month.

A spokeswoman for the ministry would not discuss how the payments could have been made to the couple, saying the case was before the courts, but Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows said: "The vast majority of the payments were benefit advances and the beneficiaries in the main are repaying these out of their regular benefit payments".

Payment processes had changed since the arrangements came to light, "so that an operation like this would fail to meet the new standards", Mr Borrows said.

Detective Inspector Mark Gutry said police were aware there were others involved in the alleged scam and were assessing their culpability.

The investigation, Operation Novocaine, was part of a crackdown on welfare fraud in a joint effort by the ministry and the police.


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