A COWRA couple has been ordered to serve 100 hours of community service for fraudulently claiming a disaster relief payment following the 2010/11 Queensland floods.
Karen Graham Shute appeared in Forster Local Court on Wednesday charged with falsely claiming the $1000 adult Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment during the floods which devastated Queensland.
The office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, which determines the location and time of hearings in these matters, confirmed that it accepted a request from Mr and Mrs Shute to have the matter heard at Forster.
“While the overwhelming majority of people are honest in their dealings with the government, the government is concerned to maintain the integrity of the system. The decision by the Court is a reminder that people should only claim their fair share,” Department of Human Services general manager, Hank Jongen said.
“The department uses highly sophisticated technology to identify fraudsters including the sharing of information between government departments, local councils and financial institutions.”
Given the desperate nature of many disaster relief claims Mr Jongen said that payments are often given quickly and checked later.
“During major disasters, Centrelink works hard to provide people in need with disaster payments quickly. Evidence of entitlement cannot always be provided immediately, so Centrelink can make the payment and check on entitlement later.”
Mr and Mrs Shute were identified following a tip off from a member of the public and Mr Jongen said that his department appreciates information from the public.
Members of the public can help by reporting suspected fraud to the Fraud Tip-off Line on 13 15 24 or online at www.humanservices.gov.au.
People should be aware that the penalties for such deception can include a significant jail term.