Cowra woman Kathleen Noble was sentenced to five years jail, with 2.5 years to serve, in Orange District court on Friday after being convicted of refund fraud.
The court was told that between July 25, 2007 and November 13, 2012, and whilst receiving Centrelink benefits, Ms Noble lodged 140 false Business Activity Statements (BAS) on behalf of eight related entities claiming GST refunds for purported business expenditure of over $9 million. The expenditure claims were false.
Noble was represented in district court by solicitor Clive Hill and pleaded guilty to the charges.
Noble cried throughout a cross examination, when she told the court the fraud began with a few mistakes when she was doing book keeping but then she found herself unable to stop when she began making fraudulent claims.
Noble said she lived on her parent’s sheep farm outside Cowra but due to financial losses as a result of drought in about 2000, the banks took a large portion of the 600 acre property.
Noble said the family was left with about 200 acres and she had access to her parent’s bank accounts because she took care of her mother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer until she died.
ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston said that tax refund fraud is not a victimless crime and those who attempt to thwart the law will be exposed.
“Refund fraud cheats the whole community and disadvantages Australians who do the right thing,” Mr Cranston said.
“Given the extensive range of controls and systems in place to detect potential refund fraud, people should realise it’s only a matter of time before they’re caught.”
The entities did not carry out an enterprise and the business expenditure claims never incurred. The entities were not entitled to receive any of the refunds.
Overall Noble claimed $957,710 in refunds.
Of that amount $394,550 in GST refunds were paid into bank accounts she controlled and were not recovered. The remaining $563,160 in refunds were either credited to her ATO account, cancelled or recalled by the ATO.
As well as the jail sentence, a reparation order in the sum of $394,550 was also made of Ms Noble.
Given the extensive range of controls and systems in place to detect potential refund fraud, people should realise it’s only a matter of time before they’re caught,” Mr Cranston said.
If you are aware of fraudulent behaviour in our community you can report it confidentially at ato.gov.au/reportaconcern