Centrelink fraud or Social Security fraud involves intentionally receiving money you are not entitled to receive from Centrelink. These offences are treated very seriously by the Courts because they involve intentional deception of a government resource.
The majority of Centrelink cases involve not declaring your income, under-reporting your income or not advising Centrelink if you become employed.
A common charge people face for Centrelink fraud is under section 134 or 135 of the Criminal Code Act, known as obtaining financial advantage by deception, or obtaining financial advantage (no deception or dishonesty).
You can be found guilty of Centrelink fraud charges if you:
- Incorrectly state your living circumstances and assets
- Incorrectly claim emergency payments in times of disaster when no entitlements exist
- Claim benefits for caring for someone that is no longer in need of care
- Claim benefits for children that are no longer in your care
- Claim benefits under false identities
- Fail to declare your partners income
- Fail to advise you are living as a couple
If you repay the money back to Centrelink?
If the Centrelink suspects that you have committed an offence, they will first conduct an investigation. They may invite you to attend a formal interview or may come to your house.
If the matter is serious, Centrelink will refer the case to Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (“CDPP”). The CDPP will consider whether to prosecute you in the best interests of the public, despite if the money is repaid back or offer to pay the money back.
If you have been asked to attend an interview with Centrelink regarding a possible overpayment, it is likely that the matter will be referred to the CDPP who may bring criminal charges. You should seek legal advice from Centrelink fraud lawyers on our dedicated 24-hour number 0449 593 845.
What Do the Prosecution Need to Prove?
In order for you to be convicted, the prosecution must prove that you:
- Intentionally engaged in dishonest conduct;
- Received money as a result, and
- Knew you were not legally entitled to the money
If you are found guilty, the penalties can be very serious. Some charges for Centrelink fraud carry prison sentences. You are likely to be ordered to repay the debt to Centrelink and the Court can impose a further fine.
Social Security offences are considered prevalent and difficult to detect. Courts have indicated that the penalties imposed should reflect the concern for the protection of revenue and threatened the basis of the Social Security System that provides financial security to the nation.
The Courts have repeatably said offences of this nature, carried out over a long period of time require immediate prison sentences. Alternatives to a prison sentence will only be considered in exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances include but are not limited to: monies obtained being spent on necessities and not luxuries, unblemished character, positive contributions to the community and medical problems that would make jail sentence burdensome.
While Centrelink fraud is a serious offence and sentencing trends indicate prison sentence is a commonly imposed penalty at Criminal Lawyers Sydney, we regularly achieved non-prison sentences for range of Centrelink fraud cases. Call fraud lawyers Sydney on (02) 9152 8619 or our 24-hour dedicated phone number 0449 593 845 and speak to our Centrelink fraud lawyer today to arrange your free first consultation.