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Catching Wayne Patterson

12 October 2007.

The Ministry of Social Development today released information revealing how it detected and caught multiple benefit fraudster Wayne Patterson. The arrest of 48 year old Patterson in October last year followed a significant joint operation led by a special Ministry of Social Development taskforce. Ministry of Social Development Chief Executive Peter Hughes today applauded the cooperation of the numerous agencies that aided the capture and successful prosecution of a career criminal who established 123 false identities to claim $3.4 million in benefit payments over three years.

12 October 2007
For Immediate Release

The Ministry of Social Development today released information revealing how it detected and caught multiple benefit fraudster Wayne Patterson.

The arrest of 48 year old Patterson in October last year followed a significant joint operation led by a special Ministry of Social Development taskforce.

Ministry of Social Development Chief Executive Peter Hughes today applauded the cooperation of the numerous agencies that aided the capture and successful prosecution of a career criminal who established 123 false identities to claim $3.4 million in benefit payments over three years.

The taskforce worked closely with many agencies and specialised experts to jointly identify and apprehend Patterson. These included:

  • Police, including their Specialised Identity Intelligence Unit and Proceeds of Crime Unit
  • The Department of Internal Affairs
  • Relevant trading banks\
  • Forensic accountants PPB McCallum Petterson\
  • The Crown Law Office, and Auckland crown solicitors Meredith Connell
  • Covert surveillance experts
  • Inland Revenue

The Ministry of Social Development was contacted by a bank on 26 September 2006 on the basis of suspicious activity across 14 accounts, 10 of which had benefits being paid into them.

The Ministry periodically receives notifications of potentially suspicious transactions, or activity, where account holders appear to be receiving a benefit.

Within a week, the Ministry working with the bank and the Department of Internal Affairs established that the accounts related to false identities.

Using the characteristics of the 14 identities, the Ministry's Integrity Services Group took just 48 hours to data-mine the entire benefit system and to establish the majority of the 123 false identities. By 10 October 2006, the Ministry had a full profile of the fraud and a security photo of the disguised offender.

"I was notified a substantial fraud had been detected on 11 October 2006 and immediately established a Ministry taskforce reporting directly to me," said Peter Hughes.

"Drawing on the expertise from a range of organisations, we had assembled extensive information about the offender within a few days but we still did not know the person's identity.

"As part of a staged plan aimed at flushing out the offender I authorised the release of a fortnight's payments worth $56,000. I was concerned that if the Ministry ceased payments, we would lose any chance of catching the offender.

"We had also arranged covert surveillance of three ATM machines we knew the offender regularly used.

"On 19 October 2006 we identified a bank account which appeared to be used by the offender for some day-to-day transactions. The next day, we tracked a transaction to a petrol station, where we were able to obtain video footage that linked the offender to a vehicle registered in Wayne Patterson's real name, providing us with an address.

"Wayne Patterson was under surveillance for four days so we could build a clearer picture of his offending and other matters relevant to a successful prosecution and recovery of money.

"On 26 October 2006, Patterson was arrested. His premises were searched and just over $2 million worth of assets were seized. A restraining order pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act was also served. Within weeks we had traced and frozen assets with overseas banks. These now total just under $2.1 million.

"Throughout this operation, the Ministry has been totally focused on a successful prosecution and recovery of the $3.4 million defrauded by Patterson.

"I am pleased that Patterson has today agreed to the repatriation of the overseas assets which will help secure the swift return of the funds from overseas. These assets have increased in value since they were deposited which means there will be a net gain to the Crown of $467,000, said Peter Hughes.