Women Avoids Jail After Receiving $200,000 In Centrelink Payments For Dead Child

, Women Avoids Jail After Receiving 0,000 In Centrelink Payments For Dead Child

Women Avoids Jail After Receiving $200,000 In Centrelink Payments For Dead Child

A woman has avoided jail after been sentenced in the District Court of NSW over fraudulently receiving more than $200,000 in Centrelink payments after her baby died in 1998.

THE STORY

It was reported that a Sydney woman who lied for 14 years about her daughter’s death to continue claiming $209,000 in Centrelink payments has been spared jail.

Alison Christie Mains has been sentenced after pleading guilty to three counts each of obtaining financial advantage by deception and defrauding the Commonwealth. The 41-year-old woman claimed Centrelink parenting payments for almost 15 years after her baby died and would dress up a doll and pretend it was her daughter at times. Her barrister Marty Bernhaut said, “the offending began as a result of Ms Mains’ daughter dying in horrific, tragic circumstances, aged five months”. The disabled baby girl died in mid-1998 and the debt was discovered in 2013. Mains claimed $209,114 in payments which she was not entitled to, failed to notify Centrelink of the death of her baby and made false oral representations about her baby still being alive. Overpayments were made of Child Carer Allowance, Parenting Payment Single, and Family Tax Benefit. She reportedly called Centrelink within two months of her baby’s death requesting advance payments, which she did more than a dozen times and approximately every six months. Mains would tell Centrelink that her daughter was in “palliative care that day” or that she had used up her previous payments on medical expenses and costs associated with her child’s neurological dysfunction. All this was said after the baby’s death.

Her barrister Mr Bernhaut submitted on Mains’ behalf that she accepts she was not entitled to the money for her deceased child but that she is illiterate, has never worked, has a background of “significant deprivation” and would have been entitled to $69,696.20 in Newstart allowance during the offending period. Bernhaut engaged a Centrelink investigator, who apparently established that Mains could have received over $189,000 in Disability Support Pension entitlements.

In setting the longest intensive corrections order possible, Judge Noman warned any breach could result in more stringent conditions or time in jail.

Judge Noman sentenced her to a aggregated period of three years imprisonment, but to be served in the community by way of an intensive correction order.

She must not use drugs or alcohol, must participate in rehabilitation programs and must not commit any other offences or she could end up behind bars.

WHAT IS FRAUD/OBTAIN BENEFIT BY DECEPTION ?

A person who, by deception, dishonestly obtains property belonging to someone else, or obtains a financial advantage or causes a financial disadvantage, is guilty of fraud. Section 192E of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) covers the majority of conduct falling under the general umbrella of “fraud”.

THE LAW

On the State level, the offence is:

Section 192E of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) – Fraud

A person who, by any deception, dishonestly:

  1. Obtains property, belonging to another, or
  2. Obtains any financial advantage or causes any financial disadvantage,

Is guilty of the offence of fraud.

Maximum penalty: imprisonment for 10 years.

This offence is an indictable offence, heard in the higher Courts. In this case, it could not have been heard in the Local Court as the amount the subject of the financial advantage exceeds $100,000.

In addition to the general factors to be considered on sentence, the following factors will often be particularly relevant:

  • The amount of money involved;
  • The length of time of the fraud;
  • Whether the offender occupied a position of trust when the fraud was committed;
  • Whether there was any sophistication in the method employed to defraud; and/or
  • The motive behind the offending.

For more on this offence, read our dedicated page.

Read our recent blog post on this ANZ email scam which attracts a charge of fraud.

COMMONWEALTH OFFENCE

When a person commits the offence against the Commonwealth government, the relevant legislation is:

Section 134.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (the Criminal Code) – Obtaining a financial advantage by deception

A person commits an offence if:

  1. The person, by a deception, dishonestly obtains a financial advantage from another person; and
  2. The other person is a Commonwealth entity.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 10 years.

  • Absolute liability applies to the paragraph (1)(b) element of the offence. This means there is no mental element involved; the fact that the person is a Commonwealth entity proves the element itself.

For more on Commonwealth offences, visit our website. Interestingly, we cover the offence of cyber-crimes against Commonwealth government departments here.

If you or anyone you know has been charged with these offence, contact National Criminal Lawyers to arrange a free consultation!

 

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