Newspaper article Daily News (Warwick, Australia)

Jail for $95,000 Welfare Cheater; Welfare Cheats Ruin It for the Needy

Newspaper article Daily News (Warwick, Australia)

Jail for $95,000 Welfare Cheater; Welfare Cheats Ruin It for the Needy

Article excerpt

Byline: JEREMY SOLLARS

A FORMER Centrelink employee who defrauded the agency of more than $95,000 over an eight-year period was "not living the high life" with the money, the District Court heard yesterday.

Lynette Anne Mullins, 50, of Warwick, will spend the next six months in jail after pleading guilty to defrauding the Commonwealth and obtaining a financial advantage by deception.

The court was told Mullins - who worked for the former Department of Social Security for 13 years - put in a claim for the sole parent payment on January 7, 1999, the day after she and her husband split up.

The pair reconciled a week later, a fact which Mullins chose not to disclose to Centrelink and she continued to receive the payments totalling $95,183.11, up until her youngest child turned 16 in July 2007.

Her fraud was later detected by data matching with Australian Taxation Office records dating between 2004 and 2006, which showed her husband had listed her in tax returns as his spouse.

Mullins, who sobbed quietly in the dock throughout her court appearance while supported in the public gallery by family, paid back the entire amount three weeks ago by re-drawing on the couple's home mortgage.

The Crown Prosecutor told the court Mullins had used her knowledge of Centrelink processes to "minimise detection" of her fraud and had repeatedly failed to disclose her circumstances despite filling out regular 'review forms' and taking part in face-to-face interviews.

The grandmother and mother of three daughters worked for Social Security between 1982 and 1995.

She was first interviewed by authorities on November 29, 2007 and made full admissions.

Barrister for Mullins, high-profile Toowoomba lawyer Robbie Davies, told the court his client accepted she would serve actual prison time but submitted Mullins had suffered from depression during the years she had defrauded Centrelink - which had "clouded" her thought processes and she had made two attempts at suicide.

Mr Davies said Mullins had also felt isolated while her husband was driving trucks interstate and had spent her dishonest gains on "household bills and items" rather than luxuries or alcohol and drugs. …

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