NSW police charge two after claiming bushfire fraud grants at Lismore

A man and woman have been charged after allegedly claiming more than $75,000 in fraudulent bushfire claims.

In June 2020, officers from the Richmond Police District Rural Crime Prevention Team commenced Strike Force Munyana to investigate alleged fraudulent claims for grant money through a NSW Government scheme by a 34-year-old man and 33-year-old woman.

Police will allege in court the man claimed he lost more than 3,000 head of cattle during the 2019 bushfires and attempted to claim compensation through an insurance company, whilst also applying for several NSW Government grant schemes for bushfire assistance.

Following extensive inquiries, strike force investigators executed a search warrant at an East Lismore property on Tuesday (15 December 2020), where they seized collectible coins, weapons and documentation.

Following further investigations, police returned to the East Lismore property about 9.40am today (Friday 18 December 2020), and arrested a 34-year-old man.

He was taken to Lismore Police Station and charged with 14 offences including dishonestly obtain property by deception, dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, use false document to obtain financial advantage, recklessly deal with proceeds of crime, and possess prohibited weapon without permit.

Later in the day, police located and arrested a 33-year-old woman.

She was taken to Lismore Police Station and charged with 15 offences including dishonestly obtain property by deception, dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, use false document to obtain financial advantage and possess unregistered firearm.

Both were refused bail to appear at Lismore Local Court today (Friday 18 December 2020).

Acting Corporate Sponsor for Rural Crime, Acting Assistant Commissioner Brett Greentree, said those who wish to abuse the system will be caught and put before the courts.

“The bushfires destroyed thousands of homes and stock across the state, as well as tragically taking lives.

“Our farmers have had to struggle through the bushfires after years of drought, so it is devastating to see some elements of society take advantage of the system that was put into place to support those who needed it.

“This is another example of some of the great work the Rural Crime Prevention Team do in conjunction with our police districts,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Greentree said.

Richmond Police District Commander, Superintendent Scott Tanner, said Northern Rivers residents can feel confident the NSW Police Force are watching those who wish to take advantage of bushfire relief.

“These support programs are put in place to help our landowners navigate out of hardship, with many Northern Rivers residents losing land and stock from the drought, then fires, and just a few days ago – from floods.

“Richmond Police and our Rural Crime Investigators will not stop until they find those who wish to manipulate the system to their benefit, and those persons are brought before the courts,” Supt Tanner said.

Acting Rural Crime Prevention Team Coordinator, Detective Acting Inspector Damian Nott, said this result highlights the capability of our rural crime teams to target all crime types.

“Fraud related matters are serious enough in themselves, but when relief funds intended to support those affected by bushfire is allegedly unlawfully claimed, it becomes next level in terms of the deceit and criminality.

“This outstanding result really showcases the capability of the RCPT, particularly in bringing protracted, complex investigations to resolution,” Det A/Insp Nott said.

Investigations under Strike Force Munyana are ongoing.

Anyone with information about rural crime is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.

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