Benefit fraudster Eileen Farquer is embarrassed that, at 83, she’s become a hero to all the wrong kinds of people.
“You’d be amazed at the people who show up here,” Farquer says, standing in the living area of her tiny rented bach in the Bay of Plenty seaside settlement of Little Waihi, where she is imprisoned on home detention.
“To some people, I’m a hero – ‘you ripped off the Government, wow’. This is what’s so bad, everybody feels it’s OK to rip off the Government. If I’d ripped off a little old lady, I’d be stoned to death. But the Government? ‘They’ve got plenty of money.’ “
While I condemn Farquer’s offending, it is good to see that she fully recognises it was wrong, and is pointing out the abhorrent attitude some people have that it is okay to steal from the Government.
Using the name Lee J Strauss, she gained an unemployment benefit in 1987, and continued to receive benefits in that name until June last year. She collected $215,000, which she is paying back at $10.50 a week.
Under the welfare reforms, I would hope this could now never happen – someone spending 25 years on an unemployment benefit.