Mother-of-three sentenced for $176,000 benefit fraud

A mother of three was sentenced to home detention and community work for not telling the Ministry of Social Development that she was living with her children’s father while a $176,677 welfare fraud built up.

Tamala Georgette Kissel, 31, was sentenced on six charges of dishonestly using documents, and one charge of obtaining money by deception over a period of nine years.

Defence counsel Tony Greig said Kissel was diagnosed with depression, and although the offending was against the taxpayer and community, she needed to be home to look after her family.

The prosecutor for the Ministry of Social Development, Lucy Collinson, said they were not seeking reparation as they would use their civil debt recovery powers to recoup some of the $176,677 overpayment.

Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said the failure to disclose the relationship meant she was given an overpayment of $134,000, but she also received reduced income related rent at the Housing NZ property she lived in. Kissel’s pre-sentence report said she used the money to buy clothes and groceries, and she had no drug, alcohol or violence related issues.

Judge O’Driscoll said Kissel was a valued employee, and her daily life of depression and anxiety was a significant factor in her offending.

He sentenced her to eight months’ home detention, and 250 hours’ community work so that she could put something back into the community for what she had taken out.

Judge O’Driscoll said Kissel was to complete budgeting, counselling, and any other programme recommended by her probation officer.

Kissel was first given a sickness benefit, but was transferred to a domestic purposes benefit when she had her first child. That benefit became Sole Parent Support and she had two more children, but told the ministry that she was single and the father was “just a friend”.