BY ISABEL EVERETT

A 50-year-old Tuncurry man has been charged with allegedly fraudulently obtaining Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments he was not entitled to related to the NSW Bushfires.

The man allegedly dishonestly influenced Services Australia officials, by


making claims for disaster payments and benefits on behalf of


members of the public not adversely affected by the bushfires.

In November 2019, Services Australia received information from concerned community members and


commenced an investigation into the man’s alleged activities.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) joined the investigation in January, and on


Wednesday,


Services Australia investigators and


AFP and NSW Police officers, executed a search warrant at the man’s residence in Tuncurry, NSW.

On Thursday AFP officers arrested the man after information was received he was allegedly threatening potential witnesses.

Police will allege in court that the man was assisting members of the public to fraudulently obtain $1000 benefit payments by calling the hotline on their behalf.

He was charged with:


  • Six counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception contrary to section 134.2(1) of the

    Criminal Code Act 1995

    (Cth), which has a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.

  • One count of influencing a Commonwealth public official contrary to section 135.1(7) of the

    Criminal Code Act 1995

    (Cth), which has a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.


AFP Commander Eastern Region Investigation Kirsty Schofield said the AFP is committed to working closely with government agencies to identify people taking advantage of schemes designed to help vulnerable communities in a time of need.

“This arrest should serve as a reminder to those planning to take advantage of those programs in place to help Australians during these difficult times. This criminal activity will not be taken lightly, especially when it takes time, effort and money away from programs set up to help people at a traumatic time in their lives,” Cmdr. Schofield said.

The man has been remanded in custody to appear in court on Tuesday, 7 April 2020.

Suspected welfare fraud can be reported via the “Reporting Fraud” page on the Services Australia website at servicesaustralia.gov.au/fraud, or by calling the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 13 15 24.


Image Credit: Australian Federal Police