Court orders woman to repay over $66,000 to Commonwealth

A 40-year-old Canowindra woman who defrauded the Commonwealth of $66,598.37 has been given a 10-month prison sentence and ordered to repay the money she obtained.

Karolina Henry of Sutton Street, Canowindra, was before the court charged with obtaining a financial advantage from a Commonwealth entity.

According to papers tendered to the court, between December 19, 2014, and May 3, 2018, Henry failed to inform the Department of Human Services of a change in her working circumstances.

On August 27, 2014, Henry was informed that she would be required to inform the Department of Human Services when she returned to work so her payments could be assessed.

On September 17, 2014, she advised the department she was considering returning to work in November 2014.

The papers stated that Henry failed to inform the department about income she had received from employment during the four year period.

Henry had been working full time as a registered nurse earning $288,628.48 while also receiving Parenting Payment Single benefits.

She received 89 payments totaling $67,195.10. Of the 89 payments, she was only entitled to receive $596.73 from eight payments, bringing her over-payments to $66,598.37

Henry's offending was only detected through a data-match with the Australian Taxation Office on September 8, 2017.

Henry's solicitor, Mr Rolf, told the court that his client was struggling as a single mother and got limited support from her child's father.

He said his client had a clean criminal record, had never been before the court and the outcome could affect her future to work as a registered nurse.

In reply, Public Prosecutor Mr Von Treifeldt told the court Henry's offending demanded a prison term.

Mr Von Treifeldt said the welfare system relied on the honesty of those receiving benefits and offences against the system could cause the public to demonise those who legitimately needed help and support.

He described her offending as a clear and deliberate fraud and was typified by greed rather than need saying: "her early guilty plea was a recognition of the inevitable in the face of a strong prosecution case, not remorse".

In sentencing, Magistrate Michael O'Brien said for a person who had never been before the courts, a conviction was a devastating outcome.

"But I need to balance the fact the offence was not detected through self-reporting but by the work of the Australian Taxation Office and the impact it had on the public purse.

"If there is any further offending she can expect to serve the rest of her sentence in custody."

Magistrate O'Brien made it a condition of Henry's custody that it should be suspended if she paid a recognizance sum of $1000 and be of good behaviour for 18 months.