Thursday, June 20, 2024

Centrelink fraudster appears in court

A man who allegedly defrauded Centrelink to the tune of more than $14,000 has appeared in Parramatta Local Court charged with multiple theft-related offences.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers arrested the 33-year-old Sydney man yesterday, charging him with allegedly redirecting Commonwealth government payments to multiple bank accounts.

The arrest follows a referral to the AFP from Services Australia after it identified the suspected fraudulent activity. 

During the search warrant, investigators from Taskforce Iris, with the assistance of Services Australia, seized a number of electronic items and files allegedly containing the personal identification details of victims.

It will be alleged the man stole identity information to then access Centrelink records to change the payment destination of a person’s payment into a bank account he controlled.

It will be further alleged the man had attempted to access the Centrelink records of several other people and contacted Services Australia while impersonating other people in order to gain access to their accounts and alter payment destinations.

Investigators have calculated the fraud value to be more than $14,000, but investigations are ongoing and further charges have not been ruled out.

Head of Taskforce Iris, Deputy Commissioner Brett Pointing said any amount of fraud that denied taxpayers funds intended for Australians in need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, was disgraceful. 

“We will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure that fraud against Commonwealth systems aimed at supporting Australians in their time of need, is identified quickly and any offender is arrested and charged,” said Deputy Commissioner Pointing.

“These hardship payments are intended for those in our community who need it the most, so to see someone try to take advantage of our welfare program is deeply disturbing.”

“Taskforce Iris will continue to attack fraud committed against the COVID-19 stimulus package wherever it is detected, our aim is to shut these crimes down early and prevent the loss of taxpayer revenue from falling into the hands of criminals.”

Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen said the agency has sophisticated fraud detection and investigation capabilities. 

“Anyone planning to defraud the system or our customers should think again,” Mr Jongen said.

“You will get caught.

“This case shows the strength of the collaboration between the AFP and Services Australia to detect, investigate and mitigate fraud.”

The AFP’s Taskforce Iris is dedicated to targeting people and organised crime entities who plan to defraud the Governments COVID-19 support measures.

Anyone with information about suspected fraud of Government benefits can make a report via the “Reporting Fraud” page on the Services Australia website at https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/contact-us/reporting-fraud, or by calling the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 13 15 24.

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