Queensland women sentenced for fraudulent claims to COVID-19 scheme

Three Queensland women who illegally attempted to access superannuation payments under a Federal Government COVID-19 scheme have been sentenced to imprisonment.

Two women who both pleaded guilty were today (Tuesday, 28 May, 2024) sentenced in the Brisbane District Court to three years and six months’ imprisonment. A third woman, who also pleaded guilty, was sentenced in April to five months in prison.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) anti-fraud Taskforce Iris charged the women in August 2020 after an investigation revealed the group submitted several fraudulent applications to attempt to access early release of superannuation payments totalling $103,500.

The women used myGov accounts to claim to be other superannuation fund-holders. The investigation started after a separate Taskforce identified the offending. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO)-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) analysed the offending and endorsed the investigation as a priority operation.

AFP Taskforce Iris investigators, with the support of the Queensland Police Service, ATO and Services Australia, executed search warrants in the Southeast Queensland suburbs of Morayfield, Worongary, Balmoral, Eagleby and Burpengary East on 6 August, 2020.

A Morayfield woman, 45, pleaded guilty in January, 2023 and a Worongary woman, 44, pleaded guilty in April, 2024 to three offences, including:

  • One count of dealing in identification information that involves use of a carriage service, contrary to sections 372.1A and 11A.2 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth);
  • One count of dealing in identification information (in relation to opening of bank accounts), contrary to sections 372.1 and 11A.2 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth); and
  • One count of dishonestly influencing a commonwealth public official, contrary to sections 135.1(7), and 11A.2 CCA of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

They were each sentenced today to three years and six months imprisonment, to be released immediately on a two-year good behaviour bond.

An Eagleby woman, 40, pleaded guilty in April 2024 to:

  • One count of dealing in identification information using a carriage service, contrary to section 372.1A of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth); and
  • One count of dealing in identification information, contrary to sections 372.1 and 11.2A (1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

She was sentenced in April 2024 to five months in prison, to be released immediately on a 12-month good behaviour bond.

AFP Commander John Tanti said the AFP would investigate any person trying to impersonate another for their own greed.

“Anyone who uses stolen identity information to try to steal money from hard working Australians who are saving for their retirement should think again,” Commander Tanti said.

“The AFP will continue to pursue and charge offenders who attempt to steal and defraud by using the stolen or fake identity information of other people.”

Serious financial crimes are a priority for the ATO-led joint-agency SFCT, of which the AFP is a member.

Acting ATO Deputy Commissioner Jade Hawkins welcomed the judge’s decision, hoping that it will serve as a warning for those considering committing fraud.

‘Fraudulent behaviour like this takes essential funding away from Australians’ retirement savings.’

‘We, along with our partner agencies, are committed to investigating and delivering consequences to those who commit fraud,’ Ms Hawkins said.

The SFCT brings together the knowledge, resources and experience of relevant law enforcement and regulatory agencies to identify and address the most serious and complex forms of financial crime.

The SFCT includes the ATO, AFP, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Attorney-General’s Department (AGD), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP), Services Australia and Department of Home Affairs, including Australian Border Force (ABF).

The AFP’s anti-fraud Taskforce Iris is working closely with partner agencies to safeguard Government measures designed to assist the community and ensure the money goes where it is needed.

Anyone with information about suspected fraud of Government benefits can make a report via the Reporting Fraud page on the Services Australia website, or by calling the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 13 15 24.

Anyone who believes their identity has been compromised or misused can contact Services Australia’s Scams and Identity Theft Helpdesk on 1800 941 126.

Tip-offs about taxation or superannuation matters can also be made to the Australian Taxation Office website via the Making a tip-off page or by calling the ATO on 1800 060 062.

/Public Release. View in full here.