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Last Updated: Friday, 12 October 2007, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Jail for record NZ benefit fraud
Credit cards
Police found cash, fake bank cards and gold bars in Patterson's home
A man has been jailed for eight years after stealing $NZ3.48m (1.32m, $2.7m) in New Zealand's largest case of benefits fraud.

Wayne Patterson, 47, admitted to using 123 identities from 2003 to 2006 to steal from the nation's welfare system.

Mr Patterson has previously been convicted of fraud in Australia, the US and New Zealand, a judge said.

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has tightened ID checks since the case, a ministry official said.

We've done very well. He's invested very wisely
Peter Hughes
MSD chief executive
New Zealand High Court Justice Peter Woodhouse ordered Patterson to serve a minimum of five years in jail after Patterson pleaded guilty to 10 charges of identity crimes and forgery in a district court.

Police found NZ$950,000 (361,500, $734,000) in cash, boxes of fake birth certificates and bank cards, works of art and gold bars - 18 of which were hidden under a shower - in a raid of Patterson's Auckland flat in October last year.

Profit

Patterson used the fake documents to obtain NZ$3.4m in welfare, which he then invested in foreign companies including Apple Computer, as well as buying and selling gold bullion, police say.

Patterson's smart investing netted him a NZ$1m profit. He had Swiss and Austrian bank accounts and companies in Panama.

And the government will benefit from his market savvy, with $467,000 of the profit to be recovered under New Zealand's Proceeds of Crimes Act, MSD chief executive Peter Hughes said.

"We've done very well. He's invested very wisely," he said.

"If this had been his own money, even half of it, he'd be set up for life."

In 1991, Patterson was jailed for eight years on fraud charges in the US. He was deported to New Zealand after serving three years.

In Australia, he also served three years in jail after using 43 fake identities to commit benefit fraud.

Mr Hughes said the department had started checking birth certificates against birth records for all welfare recipients since April.

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