Gold Coast & Brisbane Centrelink Fraud Lawyers
In recent years, the Commonwealth Government has increased its efforts to restrict access to Centrelink payments and aggressively prosecutes people it believes received Centrelink benefits by dishonesty. As we have seen in the Robodebt scandal, many people accused of Centrelink fraud have been wrongfully accused of receiving a payment when they were innocent of any fraud or wrongdoing. Because of the enormous resources available to Government departments, charges of this kind are pursued aggressively by prosecutors, and courts take them very seriously. Garde Wilson Lawyers is well-versed in the complexity of fraud law, and is familiar with the tactics used to overwhelm people who have been charged with Centrelink fraud.
What is Centrelink Fraud?
Centrelink Fraud occurs when people deliberately mislead Centrelink in-order-to receive payments, which they are not entitled to. This may happen when people intentionally give false information either purposefully or knowingly.
This may include:
- Claiming a Centrelink payment (e.g. Newstart or Youth Allowance) when you are not entitled to one;
- Making false statements (e.g. exaggerated medical conditions);
- Submitting false documents and forged pay slips; and
- Under-reporting income.
What Are The Penalties For Centrelink Fraud?
During the 2011-12 financial year, 57% of people prosecuted for Centrelink fraud were sentenced to immediate imprisonment. The average fine for the 5 year period between 2007 and 2012 was over $5,000. The fines ranged from $100 to $30,000, depending on the amount of money defrauded and the period of time over which it occurred.
Not only are the fines and prison terms serious, suggesting the Courts take a hard stance against Centrelink fraudsters, but Centrelink is one of the world leaders in fraud detection and prosecution. A 2011 study suggested that Centrelink, through its anti-fraud measures such as data analysis, public tip-offs, recovery actions and investigations, has become extremely efficient at stopping welfare fraud.
In 2008-9, Centrelink recovered nearly $250 million in fraudulently claimed income. A further 5,000 matters were referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, and an average of $4,300 was recouped from those prosecuted.
Do not be misled into believing Centrelink will not pursue you because you have only defrauded a ‘small amount’ from the government. Any amount fraudulently acquired is punishable by the Courts, and if you have been charged with Centrelink fraud, you should contact an experienced defence lawyer as soon as possible.