How welfare cheat took advantage in Qld’s darkest hour
An aspiring disability support worker from Logan fraudulently claimed nearly $1000 from the Queensland Government in the wake of the devastation wrought by Cyclone Debbie, which caused more than $1.7 billion in damage and killed 14 people.
Shockingly, she used the name of a young child aged no more than eight in order to claim the money, which she claimed she had no recollection of but admitted she received and spent the money.
Slacks Creek woman Lena Maree Bergh, 33, a retail worker and receptionist who is currently retraining to work in the disability sector, pleaded guilty to Beenleigh Magistrates Court today to a single charge of fraud.
The court heard the fraudulent claim was made on April 24, 2017, when Bergh was living at Bethania.
The Queensland Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors was offering $900 special hardship grants to those who could prove they had been impacted by the previous month's Cyclone Debbie.
Despite living hundreds of kilometres away from the trail of destruction, Bergh submitted a fraudulent application using the name of a little girl who was no more than eight at the time, falsifying her date of birth and listing non-existent dependents.
It took more than three years, but on July 1 this year, police came knocking on her door with questions.
Bergh told officers the offending occurred at a "particularly dark point" in her life when she was in the grip of a substance addiction, the court heard, and she was "extremely apologetic".
Bergh told the court she was living with a friend at the time who submitted similar fraudulent applications involving young children and she was "led off into the wrong path".
She said she had since turned her life around with drug rehabilitation programs and was looking to move on with her life.
Bergh was ordered to perform 80 hours' community service and repay the $900. No conviction was recorded.
Originally published as How welfare cheat took advantage in Qld's darkest hour