Red Cross scams 'very minor'

Red Cross scams 'very minor'

The Red Cross says it doesn't believe it was the victim of widespread fraud in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, despite a 40-year-old woman getting the best part of $17,000 worth of grants she wasn't entitled to.

But the organisation has since put systems in place to ensure they're not a victim again.

In the days and months after the earthquakes the Red Cross handed out $100 million in grants to people and families in need.

"This was money that generous people had donated to help the people of Christchurch deal with the worst disaster in living memory," says Tony Paine, Red Cross secretary general.

Yesterday in the Christchurch District Court, Donna Marie Paish, also known as Nikita Burns, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from grant applications she made and received between 2010 and 2011 using seven different names and addresses.

As Christchurch residents struggled through the aftershocks without any basics like water power and sewerage, the Red Cross began doling out one-off grants of between $1000 and $3000 to pretty much anyone who asked for it, either in person or online.

But Mr Paine says he's confident there were only a few who set out to rort the Red Cross system.

"We think it's very minor in the scheme of things," he says. "We've paid out over $100 million to over 100,000 applicants and we think we've identified 40 or 50 cases like this so it's a very small proportion."

But they have put systems in place to ensure it doesn't happen again

"We've just prepared a manual on how to run a cash grants program, to make sure that if this ever happens again we'll be prepared to put up those systems to make sure people don't defraud us."

Paish will be sentenced on the charges in February.

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