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Notorious fraudster jailed: Patterson went on Wairarapa crime spree

A career criminal has been jailed for almost five years for a marathon Wairarapa crime spree, including arson, theft and wilful damage to property.

Wayne Thomas Patterson was sentenced in the Wellington District Court to four years and nine months in jail for a string of offences across the region. In handing down the lengthy custodial sentence yesterday, District Court Judge Hobbs said Patterson’s offending was driven by financial loss, anger and vindictiveness – and referred to the defendant’s extensive criminal history.

Patterson, a short, bespectacled and partially bald man, stood in the dock with his head bowed for much of the sentencing hearing, accompanied by a police officer. He had his hands behind his back, apparently in handcuffs.

He had previously pleaded guilty to the charges, including arson, attempted arson, burglary, shoplifting, wilfully damaging property, and accessing a computer system for dishonest purposes.

Patterson, 64, was convicted of benefit fraud in 2009. At that time, he was sentenced to jail for eight years for defrauding the Ministry of Social Development of almost $3.5 million. After his release, he moved to Wairarapa.

“With respect to the aggravating features of the burglary and accessing the computer system, clearly, the offending was premeditated and planned. It was an intrusion on multiple occasions into a residential address and it involved the deliberate use of this computer system and a significant amount of money,” Judge Hobbs said yesterday.

Patterson attempted to steal $500,000 from two of his targeted Wairarapa victims but had not been successful.

In handing down the lengthy sentence, Hobbs referenced two victim impact statements of the arson, read to the court, and a number of others on file.

“There has been, obviously, a significant impact on the victims of your offending,” he said.

“This offending has clearly impacted them and continues to do so. With respect to the most serious arson, as with the less serious arsons, that appears to have been motivated by anger and revenge. There was some planning involved, cars were destroyed, and there was damage to the house. Fire is unpredictable. In these circumstances, there must always be a risk of not only damage but, more importantly, to the lives of those living in the house at the time, and the first responders who have to deal with the fire.”

Patterson’s Wairarapa crime binge started in November 2021, when he broke into a rural property on five consecutive nights and used the owners’ computer – they were away at the time. He bought $500,000 of gold bullion from an Auckland-based gold exchange. The bullion was bought in the couple’s name using their bank account but was not delivered because the mail was on hold. Instead, it was returned by the police to the exchange.

In January last year, Patterson then unsuccessfully tried to torch a truck using firelighters bought from one of the region’s supermarkets. Then in March 2022, he disconnected a CCTV system on a Wairarapa property.

In an unrelated incident in October 2021, Patterson was caught shoplifting an item from a Wairarapa store. After this, he set fire to two vehicles at one property and tried to set fire to another vehicle at another property.

The Crown, represented by Mitchell Heslip of Luke Cunningham and Clere, had asked for a sentence of up to nine years for the offending, with an uplift for Patterson’s extensive previous history of dishonesty.

In handing down the sentence of four years and nine months, Judge Hobbs took into account an offer of reparation. However, he noted that presentencing reports expressed doubt about Patterson’s stated remorse for his crimes.

“It’s fair to say that the formal reports question the extent and genuineness of your remorse. While you have acknowledged your offending through your guilty pleas, and are entitled to credit for that, it is apparent that you still maintain to some extent that you are the victim,” Hobbs said.

Patterson has a history of fraud dating back 20 years. His use of 123 identities to illegally claim $3.4 million in benefits between 2003 and 2006 prompted the media to dub him the ‘country’s worst benefit fraudster’.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison and was released to live with his parents in Wairarapa in 2015.

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