Legal

Basmah Qazi

How woman successfully rorted Centrelink of $200,000 over 15 years

How woman successfully rorted Centrelink of $200,000 over 15 years

A Sydney woman has appeared in court after rorting over $200,000 in Centrelink payments to care for her daughter, despite her having passed away 15 years ago.

Alison Christie Mains awaited sentencing today at Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court on three charges of obtaining a financial advantage by deception and another three counts of defrauding the Commonwealth.

In total, she obtained $209,114 for her child, Tyler Marie, from 1998 all the way up until 2013. But despite the continuing payments, the severely disabled girl had died five months after she was born in August 1998.

However, the now 41-year-old mother received Child Carer Allowance, Family Tax Benefit and Parenting Payment Single for years afterwards.

Her lawyer's argument was that Ms Mains has “limited cognitive ability” which meant that she was unable to lodge an application for the welfare payments she was entitled to, and that the money that she has received so far would have amounted to what she was supposed to get in the first place.

But despite it all, she contacted Centrelink multiple times to ask for advance payments to help take care of her deceased child.

Her first welfare claim was made in October 1998 when she said her child was still alive. Telling Centrelink that her daughter was born with a severe neurological disability, she failed to mention that she had passed away over a month before the claim was lodged.

Defence counsel Martin Bernhaut argued that his client understood that her actions were unacceptable.

“Ms Mains accepts that she received a range of payments relating to a deceased child during a period when she was not entitled to.

“She absolutely accepts that, and she did make false representations to Centrelink that her child was alive and in her care and had various disabilities that required additional care.”

But despite it all, her solicitor asked the judge to consider that her daughter “died in horrific, tragic, circumstances aged five months”.

Due to the trauma she had faced, paired with her inability to read and write meant she was “never going to be able to work due to her range of conditions".

He also mentioned that her child’s death took such a toll on her that she began “dressing up a doll and pretending it was her daughter”.

Mr Bernhaut said his client has already returned $25,000 of the stolen funds.

The sentencing was adjourned until 18 September.