Recluse admits to welfare ripoff
CHEF Dimitri “James” Landis lay low in the village of Burringbar fearing for his life from members of the Sydney underworld, but still managed to rip $80,000 off Centrelink in 13 years of making false claims.
Landis, 58, was jailed for two and a half years and ordered to serve a minimum of 15 months after pleading guilty in Lismore District Court to defrauding the Commonwealth.
Landis claimed he had not chosen that path of offending. However, Judge James Black found his actions over 13 years had been deliberate.
Cross-examined by his lawyer Cameron Bell, Landis explained he was born in Greece but grew up in Sydney.
He admitted he had mixed with the wrong crowd and had a lengthy criminal history, dating back to his teenage years.
Landis revealed he fled Sydney in the 1990s after giving evidence against a gang of cocaine smugglers.
“I was threatened numerous times by these people who I testified against,” he said.
“I didn't know what to do and I headed north. I got off the train at Murwillumbah and got a little farm in Burringbar.
“I lived the life of a recluse in Burringbar in fear of my life. I was devastated as to how I'd ended up in that situation.
“I just lived in constant fear. I had no way of keeping myself and it (fraud offences) just flowed on.”
Landis said he claimed the benefits under two names that were both different versions of his name.
He became very emotional when he spoke about how his partner, a nurse, was killed in a car smash near Burringbar and he came across her body in the wreckage.
The Commonwealth Crown prosecutor said the offences totalled $79,726 and took place between 1994 and 1997, and between 2001 and 2007.
Judge Black, in handing down his sentence, said it was a deliberate course of false conduct and although there had been matters of a distressful nature in Landis' background this was not an excuse for what he had done.
He said although Landis felt he was in danger, this had not prevented him from returning frequently to Sydney in order to carry out his fraudulent activities.
“I did not find it helpful for him to say he didn't choose that path. He did choose this path, he did carry it out and he was responsible,” Judge Black said.
Landis will be eligible for release in November 2011.