$15,000 social security fraud

A SOUTH Tweed Heads man defrauded Centrelink by more than $15,000 over a number of years because "it was too easy", his lawyer told the Tweed Heads Local Court on Monday.

Robert Walter Burtt, a 59-year-old truck driver, allowed the Commonwealth Service Delivery Agency to pay his disability support pension as he worked for a seafood company for two years.

In facts tended to court it said despite three letters warning him to disclose any change in his employment, he was paid social security for 48 weeks that were higher than he was entitled to.

For another 42 weeks he was paid monies by the agency that were not payable to him, resulting in an overpayment of $15,199.

Lawyer Michael McMillan yesterday entered a plea of guilty to a charge of obtaining payment only payable in part on behalf of his client.

He said Burtt was an unsophisticated man who left school at 14 years old and had not been deceitful in the fraud.

"His truck wage and Centrelink payments were in the same account. There was not attempt to hide it," he said.

"He has not spent the money on luxuries, rather his son was addicted to drugs and he funded his rehabilitation."

In facts tendered to court, Burtt told investigators he had taken the money because "it was too easy".

He said that his "problem was (that he) was gambling too much and probably drinking too much. One thing led to another".

He admitted to taking the money from April 10 2001 to June 30 2003.

Magistrate Jeff Linden gave him a ninemonth jail sentence then released him on security of $1000 to enter into a three-year good-behaviour-bond. He ordered Burtt to repay the $15,000.

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