Centrelink scam: 61-year-old welfare cheat caught with $250K in cash
A 61-year-old welfare cheat has been teaching others how to rort the Centrelink system. She would teach them to pretend that their children had ADHD and visit specific doctors who “didn’t ask questions”.
Rebecca Assie pleaded guilty last week in NSW District Court to running the fraud syndicate, which was started by her late-husband Kamal Elali from their housing commission home in Western Sydney.
When Assie’s place was raided by the Australian Federal Police in 2013, they found a safe with nearly $250,000 in cash. This was when she admitted to helping customers steal $137,397 worth of Centrelink payments between February 8, 2013 and September 3, 2015.
However, Assie wasn’t giving this information away for free. “Students” would often pay her cash deposits in order for her and her late-husband to fill out the Centrelink forms for them.
One of the couple’s major clients, Joulan Obeid, first approached the duo in 2012 and asked for help claiming false carer payments for her daughter.
After Obeid visited her local Centrelink office and handed the couple the forms, Obeid was receiving fraudulent payments within two months. She received these benefits up until May 2015. In total, Obeid received $66,607.69 from Centrelink.
Assie and Elali demanded $1,500 for their services. The payments were referred to via code, such as “One kilo and half of grapes for help.”
However, after Centrelink introduced tougher rules, cracks began to show in the couple’s plans.
On May 13, 2015, Obeid went to a doctor recommended by Assie to get some forms filled out, but the doctor refused to sign them. Assie then recommended that Obeid go to a different specialist.
In the phone call that was recorded by the Australian Federal Police, Obeid asked Elali why it didn’t work.
“Why don't you sort everything out like last time?” asked Obeid.
“They changed the rules... Centrelink became tougher. It's not like before... and the doctor we used to deal with left, he's not here anymore,” Elali responded.
Things came to a head when Assie accompanied Obeid to a doctor’s appointment and was asked to leave just moments after introducing herself.
She expressed shock to her husband over the phone, saying, “I don’t know who told the doctor we take money.”
When her husband asked who told the doctor, Assie responded saying, “He said someone told him.”
After her husband Elali died in late 2015, Assie was left to fend for herself. She was forced to contact old clients to see how her husband had filled out the forms fraudulently in order to retain more clients.
As her and her late husband were on welfare payments themselves since 1990, Assie herself has received a total of $209,499.90 between 1990 and 2011.
The couple had also reported no taxable income from July 2008 to June 2014.
Assie is on bail and will return to court to be sentenced in July.