The Beehive building

Jail sentence for “calculated” wage subsidy abuse

10 May 2023.

A Lower Hutt man has been sentenced for what a Judge has described as premeditated, calculated, and prolonged abuse of the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Richard James Blackburn, 39, appeared in the Hutt Valley District Court on 10 May 2023 for sentencing on four charges of obtaining by deception and six charges of dishonestly using a document in connection with the wage subsidy.

Over a 17-month period from March 2020 until August 2021, Blackburn made 10 dishonest applications. Some were made on behalf of a company, using the names of people who were not employed by him, while others listed Blackburn as being a sole trader when he was not.

Four of the false applications were approved and he received $89,041.60. He was also unsuccessful in trying to claim a further $25,823.

Bank records indicate the money he received was spent on day-to-day living costs. A significant amount was withdrawn in cash and could not be traced.

Judge Stephen Harrop described Blackburn’s offending as premeditated and repeated, with “a degree of sophistication”.

“This was not some one-off, spur-of-the-moment lapse where, under some pressure of one kind or another, or perceived pressure, you decided to do something dishonest. This was deliberate, calculated and it went on for a long time,” the Judge said.

“These things are not easy to detect and the whole community suffers when someone offends in this way because, obviously, the money could and should have been used for other very deserving purposes.”

Blackburn was given a 12-month prison sentence and ordered to pay $10,000 reparation.