The woman was overpaid $20k by Centrelink.
The woman was overpaid $20k by Centrelink. Contributed

Mum charged with fraud after being overpaid $20k

"OMISSION offending and active deceit" is how a federal prosecutor described a $20,000 fraud committed against Centrelink by Bundaberg mum, Nichole Ann Smith.

Smith, 34, received an eight-month jail sentence after she pleaded guilty to three counts of obtaining financial advantage for herself.

But she will not have to serve jail time because of the special needs of her son.

Federal prosecutor Lauren Archer told Bundaberg Magistrates Court that Smith received a total of $19,762 in overpayments while in receipt of single parent payments.

The Commonwealth offences Nichole Smith pleaded guilty to were from December 2011 at Murgon; between April 2012 and December 2012 at Kingaroy; and at Bargara between September 2013 and March 2015.

Smith was charged for intentionally provided false information about her income and employment to obtain the benefit.

Ms Archer said Smith had been working but not lived up to a legal obligation to report change in her income.

She said the offending included making 49 false declarations.

Smith had earned a gross income of $61,420 but declared only $7095.98.

In that time Smith received parenting benefits of $44,619 when she was only eligible to receive $24,857 - an overpayment of $19,762.

Ms Archer said Smith had repaid $7871, achieved by withholding $100 a fortnight from government monies.

The department now sought reparation of $11,891.

In her defence, Smith's lawyer raised psychological issues including anxiety and the eating disorder of anorexia that impaired her decision making.

Her son had been diagnosed with severe autism, the court heard.

Smith was now studying to acquire qualifications to gain employment.

Magistrate Belinda Merrin said Smith's fraud had persisted over significant time, and nearly $12,000 was outstanding.

Ms Merrin said it was significant that despite being contacted, Smith's offending had continued.

She said a jail term was appropriate but there were other considerations.

She said Smith had no criminal history and her eight-year-old son had now been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Smith was also the carer of her grand- parents.

After sentencing Smith to eight months' jail, Ms Merrin ordered her immediate release on a $4000 good-behaviour bond for two years.

She was ordered to pay $11,891 to Centrelink.

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