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Benefit fraudster sentenced

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A Masterton woman has been sentenced to four months and two weeks home detention for benefit fraud totalling $50,759.

In Masterton District Court on Tuesday, Judge Bill Hastings said the victim of Tereza Rose Hardgrave’s offending was essentially “every taxpayer in New Zealand”.

Hardgrave, 39, received a discount for her earlier guilty pleas to five charges of using a document to obtain pecuniary advantage over a period from 2010 to 2015.

In determining the appropriate sentence, Judge Hastings considered Hardgrave’s remorse, her co-operation with the Ministry of Social Development’s investigation, and her arrangement to pay reparation.

Hardgrave was receiving a benefit for sole parents while she was living with her partner.

Defence lawyer Ian Hard said his client had five children reliant on her at the time, and her offending came from a place of “fear instead of greed”.

Hard said Hardgrave was worried she would not be able to pay rent and put food on the table without the benefit because her partner had a “bad” drinking problem, was unreliable, and would disappear for long periods of time.

“She wasn’t trying to be greedy, she was just scared. She went about it entirely the wrong way, which she accepts, hence the guilty pleas.”

MSD prosecutor Chris Hunt said Hardgrave was paid more than $78,000, however, she would have been entitled to job seeker support payments which brought the total overpayment figure down.

Special conditions set out by probation would extend six months beyond her sentence.

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