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Melbourne fraud network charged over $800K theft of NDIS fund

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Five members of an accused Melbourne crime syndicate have been charged with defrauding the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Child Care Subsidy of $800,000.

A two year, Australian Federal Police-led investigation has identified a 50-year-old mother of seven as the syndicate’s alleged principal offender, who is accused of using welfare programs for personal profit.

The woman and four co-accused appeared in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Monday, 16 November, 2020, charged with, conspiracy to defraud, dishonestly causing loss to another person, obtaining financial advantages through deception and proceeds of crime offences. They are due to reappear in court on 2 March, 2021.

Operation Persei is a joint agency investigation with Services Australia; the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE); and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

The principal offender, who has a child with a disability on a NDIS plan, is accused of spending some of the NDIS funds allocated for her child on herself, including helping to buy a new home in Whittlesea.

She is also accused of setting up a NDIS provider business, and with another NDIS provider, a 52-year-old woman from Melton, using their businesses to exploit people with a disability for profit.

The AFP alleges the businesses set up NDIS plans that could be purposely defrauded. It means 6 people with a disability did not receive the full level of care they were entitled to.

The principal offender is also accused of fraudulently obtaining government benefits by employing her romantic, live-in partner, a 30-year-old man, as the carer for her children. AFP investigators allege the man instead worked at his hair dressing salon, and the child care subsidy rebate was used to employ nannies for their home.

A 32-year-old woman from Meadow Heights and a 31-year-old woman from Coburg also claimed benefits to care for the principal offender’s children but it is alleged the pair never provided the care, or it was not within DESE guidelines.

Overall, the syndicate defrauded taxpayers of about $800,000.

AFP Commander acting Assistant Commissioner Krissy Barrett said the syndicate members faced jail terms if convicted.

“The AFP works tirelessly with agency partners to protect taxpayers’ money by ensuring the integrity of the welfare system,” a/ Assistant Commissioner Barrett said.

“Stealing from Australians is a crime but defrauding funds from those who rely on additional support is abhorrent.

“This joint agency investigation has not only led to the arrest of alleged offenders but also prevented the syndicate from further defrauding of the NDIS, with three providers de-registered and another’s registration being rejected. It will also mean NDIS recipients targeted by the accused will now receive the resources they are entitled to.”

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