Struggle-street mum rips-off Centrelink for $22K

IT WAS a mixed-up few years in the life of single mum Emma Tams who ripped-off $22,000 in Centrelink payments she was not entitled to.

It was described as being "a case of greed and not need" when her fraud went before the Gladstone Magistrates Court.

However, it also heard that the future now seems much brighter for Tams after she recently secured her first full-time job.

Tams, 27, received a 10-month jail sentence to be served by way of an Intensive Corrections Order after she pleaded guilty to four counts of obtaining financial advantage in single parenting payments from the Commonwealth entity.

Prosecutor Alex Thomas for the Commonwealth DPP, said Tams defrauded the Commonwealth by providing false information that resulted in a series of overpayments at Gladstone and Biloela between September 2011 and March 2012, between June 2012 and December 2012, during May 2013, and between June 2013 and May 2014.

Ms Thomas said Tams initially misrepresented herself to receive the Social Security benefits knowing she had nil, or only partial eligibility, and as a result was overpaid $22,010.47.

Tams had declared her circumstances on 14 occasions either via phone, online, or using the department's mobile app, where she (wrongly) reported that she had nil income. Although she had been reminded of her obligations to report income, Tams had continued to offend.

During the four separate times of offences Ms Thomas said Tams received a total income of $66,620 "and declared none of it".

Ms Thomas said Tams earned $76,599 in gross pre-tax income but only declared $1996 and received a Commonwealth parenting income of $30,990 when she was only eligible to receive $8977.

She told magistrate Jason Schubert it was significant that the offending involved 45 fortnightly payments.

"It is a case of greed and not need," Ms Thomas said.

However, in her favour Tams had since repaid $5293.76.

Defence lawyer Kylie Devney said Tams over those years "worked intermittently in a range of employment".

"She was not in a good personal place at the time. She was working sporadically, sometimes had shutdown work, bar work, and not known when get the next," she said.

"She did not have her life or affairs in order. She struggled to get by in all those years and her lack of diligence landed her in this position."

Ms Devney said Tams was very excited about her new opportunities as she had secured her first full time job, was finalising her training although still in her probation period.

"She was a victim this year too. Her car was stolen and burnt by people high on ice," she said.

Mr Schubert said there was no excuse for Tams' behaviour and sentenced her to 10 months jail, making the order that it be served within the community by way of an Intensive Corrections Order.

She must do counselling programs and repay Centrelink the outstanding $16,716.


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