Bendigo woman 'extremely remorseful' for dishonestly receiving $42,000 from Centrelink

A BENDIGO woman who fraudulently claimed almost $42,000 from Centrelink over four years has been ordered to pay the money back.

But the woman in her 50s has already paid back a third of the amount before the matter went to court, and says she is “extremely remorseful” for the error.

She pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court last week to dishonesty offences.

The woman was receiving the single parent payment but was under-reporting her income from March 2012 to August 2016.

She earned $167,299 during the period, but only declared $60,538.

It resulted in an over-payment of $41,840.

The Department of Human Services spotted the error through its data matching process in July 2015, and informed the woman of the discrepancy.

She apologised to the court and acknowledged she was “fully aware of the seriousness” of the offence, stating she was “extremely remorseful”.

The woman has since paid back more than $14,019, with $28,821 outstanding.

Magistrate Timothy Bourke said it was a serious example of Centrelink fraud.

“The problem you’ve got is that you’re basically stealing from the government purse,” he said.

“The government needs to know exactly what you’re earning.”

The woman was placed on a 12-month community corrections order with 180 hours of unpaid community work.

She must also repay the amount in full.

The woman was the second Bendigo person to be prosecuted by the Commonwealth for Centrelink fraud last week.

A woman in her 70s was given a six-month suspended prison sentence for receiving almost $80,000 in overpayments, and was placed on a two-year recognizance order.

She must also repay the money to the Commonwealth.