Friday, September 01, 2006

Rescued Sailor A Benefit Fraudster

A man who was rescued from a stricken yacht last year at a cost of nearly $1 million to the taxpayer has admitted charges of benefit fraud, which came to light after his rescue. Bruce John Cox, 49, was sentenced to 250 hours community work in the Christchurch District Court this week after admitting seven counts of wilfully omitting to advise changes in circumstances and one of obtaining by deception. Cox and his partner, Heloise Kortekaas, were rescued from their 9.7m yacht, the Janette Gay, in October 2005 after it lost its mast in atrocious weather north of the Chatham Islands. A succession of RNZAF Orions were sent out to the couple after a Mayday call on October 8, dropping two $250,000 rescue packs, one of which was lost. They were finally picked up on October 11, 2005 by a P and O Nedlloyd ship, the Encounter.
Janette Gay
Prosecutor Stuart Poore told the Christchurch District Court that Cox was originally granted an unemployment benefit on September 18, 2003, which was cancelled in June 2004 after he left the country briefly. On July 21, 2004 he was granted another unemployment benefit, saying he had not been working and was living on the proceeds of a matrimonial property sale. From September 21, 2005, he was found to have left the country on the yacht trip. On his return he applied to transfer to a sickness benefit, and an overpayment of unemployment benefit was established. Cox had agreed all along to advise of changes in circumstances affecting benefit entitlements, Poore said. Inquiries revealed Cox had several jobs in the times in question, between November 2003 to May 2005, and had not disclosed any of the jobs or income. Cox had already received overpayments several times previously, and had been sent five letters of warning. This time he was overpaid $11,279.

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