According to the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), there were 3,228 fraud convictions recorded in 2008-2009 against those on welfare payments from Centrelink. Of these convictions, over $47 million was associated with the prosecution. Although statistics show that Centrelink fraud has reduced in recent times, it is still an extremely serious criminal offence.
There is no specific offence related to Centrelink fraud, however there are many charges that are used to convict the activities involved in the offence. The criminal offence of obtaining a financial advantage is one of the most commonly used charges in relation to fraud against Centrelink. This offence can be found under division 134.2 of the Criminal Code 1995 states that:
- A person commits an offence if:
- The person, by a deception, dishonestly obtains a financial advantage from another person; and
- The other person is a Commonwealth entity.
Another commonly used offence to convict individuals of Centrelink fraud is the charge of making a false claim for a benefitwhich can be found under section 135.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995. This section refers to general dishonesty which constitutes any action that results in a gain or loss against a Commonwealth entity or influences a Commonwealth Public Official in the exercise of their duties.
Should you or someone you know be facing charges for Centrelink fraud, it is advised to seek legal representation immediately, Contact Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders to schedule a confidential consultation.
Centrelink fraud is not simple and straightforward like most other crimes. There are a range of criminal charges that could be applied in order to convict you of Centrelink fraud, and the penalties vary accordingly. Generally speaking, penalties for Centrelink Fraud are more severe comparative to the financial gain or loss caused. As per the Criminal Code the maximum the penalties for Centrelink fraud and its relative charges are listed below.
- Obtaining a Financial Advantage by Deception: Imprisonment for 10 years
- Making a False Claim for Benefit (General Dishonesty): Imprisonment for 10 years
Despite the maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, the Court has the ability to impose alternative penalties in appropriate situations. To determine whether an alternative punishment is sufficient, the Court will deliberate on a number of factors including personal circumstances, past criminal history, and the circumstances surrounding the offence. Alternative punishments that the Court may decide to implement include home detention where an individual is subject to electronic monitoring and strict supervision, fines, suspended sentences, community service orders or intensive correction orders.
It is also important to be aware the penalties are much more severe if the matter is finalised in the District Court as opposed to the Local Court. Individuals who are found guilty in the Local Court may be more likely to receive an alternative penalty as mentioned above, while those who are convicted in the District Court are more commonly punished by a full time custodial of some sort.
For more information on Centrelink fraud and the penalties pertinent to a specific matter, please do not hesitate to contact our Sydney based fraud lawyers to schedule a consultation.
To prove an offence and be found guilty of Centrelink fraud by charge of obtaining a financial advantage by deception the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you have:
- Deceived another person or Commonwealth entity (i.e. Centrelink); and
- This deception caused a financial advantage;
Meanwhile, to prove Centrelink fraud by the charge of general dishonesty, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- You engaged in conduct with the intention to dishonestly obtain a gain from another person; or
- You engaged in conduct with the intention to dishonestly cause a loss or causes a risk of loss from another person; or
- You engaged in conduct with the intention to dishonestly influence a public official in the exercise of their duties; and
- The other person was Commonwealth entity or Commonwealth public official (i.e. Centrelink)
If you choose agree and plead guilty to charges relating to Centrelink, and the prosecution team is able to prove that you did commit the offence as set out in section 134.2 or 135.1 of the Criminal Code it is likely that you will face the penalties listed above.
However, your guilty plea often shows remorse in the eyes of the Court and could result in a less severe penalty. For example, if the circumstances surrounding the charge are not deemed serious and you have no prior criminal history, the Court may be more inclined to enforce a reduced sentence or alternative punishment such such as community corrections orders, intensive correction orders or conditional release orders, if it is determined that these punishments are sufficient and fair for the particular offence.
For the most accurate and honest advice relating to your specific case, please contact our dedicated criminal defence lawyers to schedule a conditional and consultation.
However, you also have the option to plead not guilty to the charges of general dishonesty or obtaining a financial advantage by deception should you wish. If you choose to do so, the case will proceed before a Court, in which the prosecution will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did commit the offence as per section 134.2 or 135.1 of the Criminal Code 1995. If they are successful in proving these claims, you may be convicted and therefore the above penalties could be imposed.
However, our Sydney based fraud lawyers are dedicated to achieving the best result possible for our clients. We will cross examine evidence provided in Court and apply relevant defence strategies in order to cast doubt over the reliability of the evidence provided and quash the allegations. If we are successful, the Court may completely dismiss the charges in which you will no longer be facing the penalties stipulated by the Crimes Act 1900. In other instances, our defence strategies may result in a less serious sentence or a downgraded charge that has less severe penalties as opposed to the maximum sentence.
Regardless, as an award winning criminal law firm, we are proud to be some of Sydney’s best criminal defence lawyers. Our lawyers are dedicated to achieving the best possible outcome for the cases we represent.
If you are facing fraud charges relating to general dishonesty, contact Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders for a consultation.
In order to negate the allegations that you were involved in Centrelink fraud, our Sydney based fraud lawyers may argue the follow criminal defences:
Lack of intent to defraud: In cases of Centrelink fraud, it is up to the prosecution to prove criminal intention and deceptive or dishonest behaviour. However, in some situations, a defendant may be able to successfully raise the defence of lack of intent if they were led to believe that they were in fact co-operating with the specific requirements of their welfare entitlement or did not knowingly obtain a benefit.
Wrongfully Accused: Unfortunately, in some cases individuals find themselves facing a trial for a crime they didn’t commit. If there is evidence that you were not the one who committed the crime of Centrelink fraud, you may have a suitable defence. For instance, employees of Centrelink may miscalculate the financial benefit that should be paid to a particular individual in which the defendant believed to be the true amount they were entitled to. In this instance, the defendant will than no longer be criminally liable for Centrelink fraud.
Duress: Encompasses the use of unlawful coercion to persuade a person to partake in an activity they would not usually participate in. This coercion can take form of harmful threats such as death or grievous bodily harm in which the accused believes that if they do not participate in the activity, they can be at risk.
Centrelink fraud can be highly complex and vary in severity. Typically, less serious matter will be heard and finalised before a Local Court. Alternatively, the more serious offences will be prosecuted on indictment in the District Court.
Although we are Sydney and Parramatta based criminal defence lawyers, our team at Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders has extensive experience in defending various criminal cases all over NSW. Therefore, our clients can be confident that we are able to effectively represent their case regardless is the matter is dealt with in Local, District and Supreme Courts.
For a first consultation, call our expert criminal law firm now.