Centrelink fraud offences are one of the most common and frequently
prosecuted Commonwealth criminal offences. Centrelink fraud offences are serious
and the maximum penalty can range from imprisonment of between 12 months and 10
years depending upon which charge the Commonwealth DPP choose to prosecute an
Centrelink Fraud Investigations
Centrelink will normally give you the opportunity to participate in a taped
record of interview prior to referring the matter to the CDPP. You should seek
legal advice before making a decision to attend or not to attend any interview,
as any admissions you make may be used against you in court proceedings.
We have two lawyers at Armstrong Legal who were employed by the CDPP and were
in the Centrelink fraud section. They have extensive experience in this area and
will be able to advise you whether participating in an interview will assist
your case or not.
Centrelink overpayment: will I be charged?
This is a common question and it is important to be clear about the separate
steps prior to a criminal prosecution being initiated.If you have been overpaid
money by Centrelink, either because you have failed to correctly declare your
income, or failed to update Centrelink with details that affect your payment,
Centrelink may raise a debt or overpayment. This means that you owe Centrelink
the amount overpaid and Centrelink will take action to recover the money from
you. You may have the overpayment reduced or waived after an internal review or
an appeal to the Social Security Administrative Tribunal, Normally this
Centrelink achieve this by deducting money from and payments that you may be
entitled to. The mere fact that there is an overpayment does not necessarily
mean that you will be charged with a Centrelink offence.
Centrelink fraud charges
Centrelink are likely to charge you with a Centrelink fraud if the amount
overpaid is not trivial and Centrelink believe that you intentionally and
knowingly engaged in conduct to obtain more money than you were entitled. In
other words, what you did was more than just carelessness or negligence. For
example, you intentionally failed to declare your income so you would be paid
more benefits than you were entitled.
Centrelink fraud prosecutions
If Centrelink believe that an offence may have been committed, after the
overpayment has been raised and an investigation completed, Centrelink will
refer the matter to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).
The CDPP are an independent body and it is their role to make a final
decision on whether criminal charges will be laid. They will consider whether
the evidence is sufficient for there to be reasonable prospects of a conviction,
and they will also consider whether it is in the public interest for charges to
be laid. In doing so, they will consider factors such as the amount overpaid and
whether there were any aggravating features to the conduct (for example whether
false statements were made to Centrelink, or whether false or multiple
identities were used).
Centrelink fraud penalties
The most common charge in these matters is obtaining a financial advantage
from a Commonwealth entity, section 135.2(1) Criminal Code 1995 (Commonwealth).
This carries a maximum penalty of 12 months jail and/or a fine of $6,600. It is
a summary offence which means it can only be dealt with in the Local Court. The
vast majority of people charged with a Centrelink offence are charged under this
section and dealt with in the Local Court.
However, in some cases the prosecution may decide that the conduct alleged is
so serious that the matter should be dealt with in the District Court. This
means that maximum penalties increase (up to 10 years imprisonment), and the
matter will be heard and determined in the District Court before a Judge and
possibly a jury if the matter is defended.
Other less commonly charged offences include making a false statement in a
claim for a benefit, s.136 Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).If you receive a Court
Attendance Notice you have been formally charged. You should seek the assistance
of solicitor as soon as possible.
Centrelink Fraud Sentencing Statistics
The 3 most common charges that the Commonwealth DPP proceeds with are:
1. Dishonestly obtain a financial advantage (Section 135.2(1) of the Criminal
Code ACT 1995)
2. Dishonestly cause a loss (Section 135.1(5) of the Criminal Code ACT 1995)
3. Obtain a financial advantage by deception (Section 134.2(1) of the
Criminal Code ACT 1995)
For more information contact Armstrong Legal:
Level 4 127 York Street
Sydney, NSW 2000 (Opposite the Queen Victoria Building)
Phone: (02) 9261 4555
After Hours: 0404 55 88 33