There are numerous ways a Centrelink charge can occur such as dishonestly under reporting your income or spousal status, not ceasing payments for children or someone who is no longer under your care, claiming benefits under multiple names etc. Centrelink fraud is a Commonwealth charge and is an extremely serious, more often than not resulting in a jail sentence.
If Centrelink believes you are frequently claiming benefits they will launch in internal investigation. You will likely then be contacted by Centrelink and asked to participate in an interview with them. We strongly recommend to all clients and potential clients that they decline to participate in an interview until they have sought legal advice. From there Centrelink will decide whether to forward their findings onto the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions who has the power to charge a person.
Once a charge has been made we can request the charge documents and comparative sentences from the Director of Public Prosecutions and go over them with you. These documents will show the exact dates and amount/s of money which have allegedly been fraudulently claimed. The comparative sentences provided will be cases similar to the amount of money and circumstances surrounding your charge/s.
The penalties vary according to the severity of the offending, the amount of money involved and the person’s criminal history. For very minor charges the court might impose a good behaviour bond or community service.
If 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, should the amount be 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 an 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 an early guilty plea
- putting appropriate character references before the court
- putting appropriate precedent cases before the court
- entering into a repayment scheme to repay the Centrelink debt.
It is extremely unlikely that you would be granted to not have a conviction recorded against you for a charge of this nature.
Here at Clarity Law we represent Centrelink fraud charges in Courts across South East Queensland every day, it is this experience, and our expertise that allows us to get the absolute best result for clients. Other law firms simply don’t have the experience that we do and don’t know the process and the Magistrates like we do. We also offer the most competitive prices in Queensland that are all fixed fee so there are no nasty surprises when you receive your invoice.
If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can call 1300 952 255 7am – 7pm seven days
Disclaimer – this article contains general advice only and is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. Its represents information about the law in Queensland and since publishing the law or the interpretation of that law may have changed.