Intentionally providing Centrelink with incorrect or misleading information is an indictable offense under Australian law. The offence can be committed in numerous ways; a person may fill out the forms with incorrect information, submit false statements, use multiple identities, fail to disclose all the relevant information they are obliged to disclose or they will fail to keep Centrelink updated with the latest information.
Section 135.2 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code stipulates that it is an offence for a person to obtain financial advantage, for themselves or for another person, which they are not eligible to receive, from a commonwealth entity. The maximum penalty is 12 months imprisonment. Centrelink fraud is treated very severely by the courts largely to deter any person from committing the crime as it is difficult to detect.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions ("DPP") is the body which prosecutes people for Centrelink fraud not the police. The DPP prosecutes more than 3,000 cases of Centrelink fraud each year. Generally s prosecution of Centrelink fraud takes place in the Magistrates Court closet to where a person resides.
The penalties vary according to the severity of the offending, the amount of money involved and the person’s criminal history. For minor charges the court might impose a good behaviour bond or community service. Once however the amount of the fraud exceeds $10,000 or the person has previous similar offending then the court will be looking to impose a term of imprisonment. In our experience if the amount is under $25,000 then the courts would generally impose a jail sentence of 12 months per offence and with the right submissions would generally allow the person to remain in the community under a intensive correction order (“ICO”) instead of jail. If the court imposed an ICO it would mean the person would not have to serve any time in jail but would be supervised by Queensland Corrective Services and subject to the requirement to;
- report regularly to a supervising officer or receive visits from them
- not leave Queensland without permission
- may be required to attend courses or treatment
- advise on any change of address
- undertake up to 12 hours of community service each week
If the amount of the fraud exceeds $25,000 then the risk of a term of actual imprisonment is extremely high. A conviction will be recorded unless the only penalty is a good behaviour bond and this is generally only done in very minor cases.
We have undertaken Centrelink fraud cases throughout Queensland and know exactly what submissions to make to achieve the best outcome for a client. The things that may help minimise any penalty include;
- entering into a repayment scheme to repay the Centrelink debt
- entering an early guilty plea
- putting appropriate character references before the court
- putting appropriate precedent cases before the court
Centrelink Fraud Case Studies
Case study 1 our client was charged with defrauding Centrelink of $28,390, she was a married woman aged 42 years with no previous criminal history. We were able to convince the court to give our client an ICO rather than her serving any time in jail.
Case Study 2 our client was charged with defrauding Centrelink of $10,764, she was a single woman aged 25 with one previous minor criminal offence. Our submissions to the court we accepted by the Magistrate and she was sentenced to community service.
The law is very strict on payment of taxes since it is one of the major sources of government’s income. A typical example for tax evasion is a situation where an individual or a business deliberately fails to pay the tax due or misstates their income or expenses. For instance, the Australian Taxation Office considers following situations as tax evasion;
- failing to declare assessable income,
- claiming deductions for expenses that were not incurred ,
- claiming input credits for goods that goods and services tax (GST) has not been paid on,
- failing to pay “the pay as you go” (PAYG) instalments that have been deducted from a payment, and
- failing to lodge tax returns.
To be found guilty of tax evasion, an intention to defraud the tax agencies must be present. There can be situations where a person fails to include correct information by accident or mistake. It would be unfair if the law treated these persons and others who intentionally provide incorrect or misleading information in order to reduce their tax liabilities alike. Therefore, if it is your mistake which caused you to include incorrect information on the forms you will only be liable to a lesser offence, but you will have to convince the Judge of your mistake. But in other cases where a person’s failure to comply with requirements was intentional (or where he could not prove in court that his conduct was not intentional) they will be liable to severe penalties.
Since tax evasion is a serious offence throughout Australia the maximum punishment can be 10 years imprisonment.
Other Fraud Charges
There are numerous other potential fraud charges that can be imposed, these include
- Obtaining property that belongs to someone else
- gaining a benefit or advantage illegally
- inducing someone to deliver a product to someone else
- computer fraud
If you have a fraud charge then get in contact with us to discuss.
If you are charged with a fraud charge and you are pleading guilty you will generally appear before a Magistrate but this depends on the amount of the fraud. In Queensland over 90% of matters are dealt with in the Magistrates Courts. A Magistrate when sentencing you for this offence will take into account the facts of the case, any previous criminal history and your personal circumstances. The best way to ensure a successful outcome is to make sure your circumstances and the facts of the case are put in a clear and concise way before the Magistrate. If you are seeking for no conviction to be recorded it is important that the Magistrate understands how having a criminal record might affect you in the future.
The court, depending on the charges might look at imposing one or more the following penalties
1. Good behaviour bond
3. Community service
5. Suspended jail sentence
6. Intensive Correction Order (ICO)
Pleading not guilty
You can enter a plea of not guilty to a fraud charge and elect to take the matter to a trial. If the matter is dealt with in the Magistrates Court then it heard before a Magistrate, if the matter is in the District or Supreme Court then your matter will be decided by a jury. If you plead not guilty, a brief of evidence will be served upon your lawyers. The brief of evidence contains all the evidence against you usually consisting of statements by witnesses and any forensic evidence including analysis of the type and amount of drugs alleged to have been involved. At the trial witnesses, police and any experts attend Court to give evidence orally. The witnesses are then made available for cross-examination by your lawyers. You have the right to give evidence at your trial or elect not to give evidence at all.
A number of defences may be available to a fraud charge these include;
- honest and reason mistake
- that you had relevant permission to take the goods or money
We will be able to advise you if we believe you have a defence available to you.
What have you achieved for clients in the past?
Case study 1 Client charged with defrauding the ATO by failing to lodge BAS statements and income tax returns, total amount outstanding was $50,000. Client received fine only
Case study 2 Client charged with fraudulently taking home over 2,000 items of clothing from her employer. Client received probation only
Case study 3 Client defrauded over $48,000 from elderly and infirmed people in her care. Client received a jail sentence but it was less than half what it should have been
Do I need a lawyer?
Do not attempt to represent yourself in the court on an fraud charge as the risk of jail or the recording of a conviction is too high.
Engaging Clarity Law to act for you
Engaging us gives you the best chance at obtaining avoiding a jail sentence or not having a conviction recorded. We are the leading criminal law firm in South East Queensland. We appear every week in the courts with people charged with criminal offences, it is this experience that allows us to get the best result for clients. Other law firms simply don’t have the experience that we do and don’t know the judges like we do. Just some of the benefits of us acting for you include;
- we know the judges and what they want to hear to give you the best outcome
- we have good relationships with the police prosecutors meaning we can often have them not seek a jail sentence
- we are there to help you through the process and make everything as stress free as possible, in most cases you will not have to say anything in court
- engaging us shows the court you are taking your charges seriously
- your matter will be heard early, often first, you do not have to wait for 20-30 other matters to be heard before you
- you will be fully informed of what is to happen in court and what this means for you after court
- unlike the police or the Judge, we are there to look after you, your privacy and your interests
What courts do you appear in?
We appear in every court in South East Queensland. Just some of the courts we appear in for fraud charges are;
1. Beenleigh Magistrates Court
2. Brisbane Magistrates Court
3. Caloundra Magistrates Court
4. Caboolture Magistrates Court
5. Gympie Magistrates Court
6. Holland park Magistrates Court
7. Ipswich Magistrates Court
8. Maroochydore Magistrates Court
9. Noosa Magistrates Court
10. Pine Rivers Magistrates Court
11. Southport Magistrates Court
12. Toowoomba Magistrates Court
13. Wynnum Magistrates Court
For a full list of Courts we appear in click here.
Will I need to come in to the office to see you?
We have offices in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coasts but in most cases we can handle everything by email and the phone without you ever having to come into our office. We are also open outside normal business hours for your convenience.
What do you charge?
We charge a flat upfront fee for our services that means no hidden charges or unexpected bills. We don't charge any travelling fees either; if you are in Maroochydore or Southport you will pay the same price as if you are Brisbane.
We are also upfront with our fees, if you look at other law firms few, if any, clearly list how much they are going to charge you. Clarity Law on the other hand are happy to list our prices as we are sure no other South East Queensland law firm can match our prices and experience. Our prices include;
- full preparation for court including checking for defences and devising strategy to minimise penalty
- negotiations with the police prosecution unit including obtaining criminal history and charge documents
- drafting submissions for the court
- advising you on how to obtain character references
- all telephone calls, faxes emails and meetings with you
- detailed information to you on the likely penalty and information on what will happen at court and afterwards
- appearing in the court with you to conduct your guilty plea
To see what we will for a guilty plea on a fraud charge click here. If you are wishing to plead not guilty or the charge is very serious we will provide a fixed price written quote.
How do I get more information or engage you to act for me?
If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;
- Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you
- Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 8pm