Media release: Anti-fraud taskforce arrests two women on coronavirus, bushfire welfare fraud
The Hon Stuart Robert MP
The Hon Peter Dutton MP
The Morrison Government’s new anti-fraud Taskforce Iris has arrested two women in Port Macquarie over alleged fraudulent claiming of bushfire and coronavirus welfare assistance.
Services Australia identified a range of suspicious claims submitted by the two women, aged 27 and 24, and worked directly with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and NSW Police Force to stop the illegal activity.
It is alleged the two women used 25 assumed identities to try to claim more than $27,000 in welfare payments they were not entitled to, of which more than $10,000 was paid. These include:
- 25 fraudulent claims for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment, in the context of the summer 2019/20 bushfires;
- One fraudulent claim for JobSeeker payments, as supplemented to assist members of the community who have been adversely impacted by COVID19.
The women were arrested at their homes in Port Macquarie on Thursday, and have each been charged with eight counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, contrary to Commonwealth legislation. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Both women were granted bail on the Commonwealth charges and are next scheduled to appear before Port Macquarie Local Court on 22 July 2020.
Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said the government takes fraud and the protection of our welfare system very seriously.
“The AFP and Services Australia have ramped up their efforts to make sure we come down heavily on people who seek to rip off taxpayer money that was intended to support people whose lives have been turned upside down by the devastating bushfires or COVID-19,” Mr Dutton said.
“Stealing from the welfare system is not a victimless crime and our government has zero tolerance for those who seek to do so."
Minister for Government Services, Stuart Robert, said Services Australia’s sophisticated fraud detection program meant anyone planning to defraud the system should think again.
“Services Australia is doing everything it can to support Australians in need during the coronavirus pandemic but staff also are keeping a watchful eye out for unscrupulous people who try to take an unfair advantage,” Mr Robert said.
“Australians expect their government to maintain the integrity of the welfare system and this includes detecting, investigating and prosecuting people who abuse the system and get money for which they’re not eligible.”
Suspected welfare fraud can be reported via the ‘Reporting Fraud’ page on the Services Australia website at www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/fraud, or by calling the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 13 15 24.