Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

Centrelink Fraud Mum Gets Jail Time; $40,000 Taken in 66 Welfare Payments

Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

Centrelink Fraud Mum Gets Jail Time; $40,000 Taken in 66 Welfare Payments

Article excerpt

Byline: Ross Irby ross.irby@news-mail.com.au

A MUM who ripped off nearly $40,000 from Centrelink in an ongoing fraud has swapped her family home for a jail cell.

A Bundaberg magistrate told mother-of-two Robyn Michelle Herbert doing jail time was an appropriate punishment for her $39,319 fraud.

It was a tearful and somewhat disbelieving Herbert who hugged her mother in the courtroom after being sentenced to an eight-month jail term.

Her Legal Aid lawyer Thomas Bray did his best in his submission to Magistrate Belinda Merrin to keep his client out of jail.

Herbert, aged 36, must serve two months of this sentence before being released.

The court also heard how she tried to obstruct investigators from speaking to her Bundaberg employer.

Herbert pleaded guilty in Bundaberg Magistrates Court to obtaining financial advantage for herself in what is a Commonwealth offence.

Federal prosecutor Lauren Archer sought a jail term for the serious fraud that had been committed over two-and-a-half years when Herbert was receiving a sole parent allowance.

Ms Archer said Herbert committed the fraud between June 2012 and December 2014, during which time she had been employed full-time and was receiving Centrelink benefits that she was not entitled.

Herbert failed in her legal obligation to report any change in circumstances or income.

Ms Archer said Herbert earned an income of more than $111,000 but "declared nil" to the government department.

In that time she was paid benefits of $47,050 but as only entitled to $7051.

She was overpaid $39,319 in a series of 66 fortnightly payments by Centrelink.

The offences were detected in 2016 through data matching done by the Australian Taxation Office.

"She says the reason was that she attempted to report on the mobile app but it didn't work and it was too hard to contact the department by phone," Ms Archer said.

Herbert had also denied the substantive allegations.

Ms Archer said Herbert also intercepted calls to her employer, saying that Herbert "tried to interfere with the investigation".

Of the $39,319 overpaid to her, Herbert has since repaid $4950, which has been achieved by withholding monies from her family tax benefit. …

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