A Western Sydney couple have been jailed for a total of 9 years and 6 months for committing $1.5 million in fraudulent claims against the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The 42-year-old Lurnea man and 36-year-old Lurnea woman were each sentenced to 4 years and 9 months imprisonment in the District Court of NSW, with non-parole periods of 3 years and 2 years and 9 months respectively.
The NDIS Fraud Taskforce investigation, codenamed Operation Apus, saw five members of an organised crime syndicate arrested in May 2019 and the subsequent forfeiture of multiple luxury vehicles and a property in Goulburn, NSW, in April 2020. A sixth person was also issued a summons to appear in court on related charges.
Court proceedings are continuing for the remaining four people charged.
NDIS Taskforce investigators alleged in court that the syndicate controlled registered NDIS providers – including Universal Group Australia Pty Ltd, Reliance Disability Services and United Mission – to fraudulently claim more than $1.5m in NDIS payments from 68 people, or those managing their affairs, between October 2017 and May 2019.
The value of fraudulent claims is higher than originally estimated in May 2019, as further fraudulent claims were uncovered as the investigation progressed.
A victim impact statement submitted to the court showed the direct and damaging effects this type of criminal activity had on the Scheme’s participants and their families.
AFP Superintendent Mel Phelan said the outcome showed that authorities will not tolerate the exploitation of Australians and the defrauding of taxpayer dollars.
“It’s appalling that people are willing to steal directly from the pockets of Australians living with a disability, denying people the crucial support offered by the NDIS,” Supt Phelan said.
“Today’s outcome shows that such greed for a short-term profit will result in long-term consequences – such as a prison sentence, a criminal record and losing the profits of your crimes.
“The AFP stands shoulder to shoulder with our partners to put perpetrators of NDIS fraud before the courts and ensure NDIS funds go to those who need it most.”
The National Disability Insurance Agency said the outcome would act as a deterrent to anyone thinking they could defraud the Scheme and NDIS participants.
“The National Disability Insurance Agency has zero tolerance for fraud,” the NDIA’s Branch Manager of Scheme Integrity, Scott Britton, said.
“Participants, families and carers should have full confidence that the Agency is preventing, detecting, and responding to this criminal behaviour. Our priority is protecting participants and ensuring they can continue to access the disability supports they need.”
Anyone with information about suspected fraud involving the NDIS should contact the Fraud Reporting and Scams Helpline on 1800 650 717.