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Centrelink fraud is a serious offence. Lying to Centrelink about your personal circumstances can have significant consequences.
By receiving benefits you are not entitled to, you are defrauding the Government. This is a serious offence viewed by the Courts as stealing from the public purse – from the funds set aside for those who need them the most.
Being found guilty of this offence can result in a large fine or even imprisonment, in addition to a criminal record. Having a criminal record can have a substantial effect on your future employability and travel opportunities.
If you have been charged with Centrelink fraud, you should obtain legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
Common types of Centrelink fraud
You may be charged with Centrelink fraud in various circumstances:
- claiming a Centrelink payment when you know that you are not eligible to receive that payment
- making false statements such as exaggerating a medical condition, or
- submitting false documents such as forged pay slips or bank statements.
The more major offences generally involve larger sums of money, obtained over a longer period of time as a result of more complicated lies.
What the prosecution will be seeking to prove
- You intentionally engaged in conduct
- You acted dishonestly
- As a result of the conduct you obtained money from Centrelink
- You knew or believed you were not entitled to receive that money from Centrelink
Usually it is the last element that is called into question. The prosecution must prove that your actions were intentional, as opposed to accidental or a result of carelessness.
If found guilty of Centrelink fraud, you may face the following penalties:
- Repayment of the debt
- A fine, in the sum of up to $10,200 for a minor offence, and up to $102,000 for a major offence.
- Imprisonment, for a term of up to 12 months for a minor offence and up to 10 years for a major offence.
What you should do
If Centrelink believes you have committed an offence, it will launch an investigation into your conduct. Centrelink will normally request that you attend a voluntary video-recorded interview. Before deciding whether to attend, you should seek legal advice to find out what your options are. You must proceed carefully because anything you say in an interview with Centrelink may be used against you in court.
Once Centrelink finishes its investigation, it refers the matter to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions who decides whether criminal charges will be laid against you. If you have been charged with offences, it is important you obtain legal advice.
We're here to help
You may have a defence to the charges against you – perhaps Centrelink have made an error in its calculations, or there has been a misinterpretation of information you have provided to Centrelink. The prosecution must prove, beyond reasonable doubt, you had the necessary criminal intent to commit the offence.
Remember - there are a number of different ways the charges can be fought. Obtaining legal advice at the earliest opportunity will assist you in achieving the best outcome and hopefully provide you with some peace of mind throughout the process.
To find out where you stand in relation to your matter, please contact us either by submitting an online enquiry via the form on this page or by calling us.
Did you know?
For the major offence of obtaining a financial advantage from the Australian Government by deception:
- During FY 2011-2012, 57% of people prosecuted for this offence were sentenced to immediate imprisonment.
- Between 2007 and 2012 the average fine imposed on people who committed this offence was $5,373, with fines ranging from $100 to $30,000.
These figures demonstrate the tough stance taken by courts for welfare fraud against the Australian Government and reinforce the need to obtain legal advice in such matters.