Man who challenged Bridges jailed for defrauding MSD

A freelance cameraman who challenged Simon Bridges to go driving with him near Queenstown to see the driving habits of overseas tourists has been jailed for six months for defrauding the Ministry of Social Development of more than $9000.

Damon Anthony Forde (45), of Arrowtown, was prosecuted by the ministry on six charges of forgery, five of using a document, and one of obtaining by deception.

He gained national attention in February last year after challenging then-transport minister Simon Bridges to take a drive with him to see the supposedly dangerous driving habits of tourists in the Queenstown Lakes district.

The invitation, declined by Mr Bridges, came after Forde posted a widely viewed video on Facebook showing a vehicle being driven erratically on the Crown Range road near Queenstown.

Forde denied the charges before entering a guilty plea the day before a scheduled trial.

Judge Bernadette Farnan split sentencing in the Queenstown District Court into two hearings a month apart.

On November 12, she sentenced Forde on the forgery charges to 300 hours' community work and ordered him to pay back $9122.88 to the ministry.

She adjourned sentence on the remaining charges until yesterday because of uncertainty about the suitability of Forde's home address for home detention.

The summary of facts state Forde applied for the unemployment benefit in May 2012. It was granted the next month, and he also received an accommodation supplement.

When he applied for another accommodation supplement payment in November of that year, he stated he was living at an Arrowtown address and paying rent of $260 a week.

He submitted a tenancy agreement to support the application.

He used the same address in August 2014 when he submitted an annual reapplication for Jobseeker Support, submitting a tenancy agreement stating he was paying $300 a week.

The ministry found out the property was owned by Forde's mother, he had not paid any rent from November 2013 to February 2016, there were no tenancy agreements and the leases he had submitted were forgeries.

He also falsely claimed he was paying rent for the property in three temporary additional support applications.

In February 2016, he applied for a "$3K to Christchurch Incentive Payment'' stating he had got a job with a company in the city.

Supposedly supporting documents were found to be forgeries.

As a result of the offending, he received benefit overpayments totalling $9122.88 between November 22, 2013, and February 7, 2016.

Judge Farnan yesterday granted him leave to apply for home detention.