Mother-of-three’s $176,000 benefit fraud

A Papanui mother-of-three who lied about being in a relationship for nine years has now admitted benefit fraud charges totalling $176,677.

The Ministry of Social Development is not seeking reparations from 31-year-old Tamala Georgette Kissel. It told the Christchurch District Court when she pleaded guilty that it would “recover the debt directly”.

Kissel pleaded guilty to six charges of dishonestly using documents, and one charge of obtaining money by deception.

MSD prosecutor Lucy Collinson said Kissel had been granted a sickness benefit from September 2009, which was paid at the single adult rate because she did not disclose she was living with a partner.

She was transferred to a domestic purposes benefit the following year, after the birth of her first child. From 2013, that benefit became Sole Parent Support. Both benefits required that the recipient not be in a de facto marriage.

Kissel told the ministry the name the father of her child, and had two more children in 2012 and 2014.

She applied to receive financial assistance for them, and named the same man as the father but stated their relationship was “just friends”.

“In all forms, the defendant named only her children as the other occupants of her home and stated she did not have a partner, and that she was single.”

She also received reduced income related rent at the Housing New Zealand property she lived in.

Miss Collinson said the ministry investigated after receiving information and established that Kissel had been in a relationship with the father of the three children since November 2008 and they had lived together since before June 2009.

“She stated she had misled the ministry about her relationship for financial reasons,” said Miss Collinson.

The offending meant that Kissel was overpaid benefits totalling $134,929 from September 2009 to November 2018, and that she paid $41,747 less rent than she should have.

Kissel, who has no previous convictions, was remanded by Judge Brian Callaghan for a pre-sentence report and sentencing on August 2. The judge asked for a report on her suitability for home detention.

She is remanded “at large” – no bail was required.