Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

210 Welfare Cheats Caught

Some 210 South Australians were convicted of welfare fraud last financial year as part of the Australian Government’s ongoing efforts keep the social security system fair and honest, Senator Kay Patterson, Minister for Family and Community Services, announced today.

“More than 99% of welfare fraud cases that appeared in South Australian courts resulted in a conviction, involving debts worth almost $1.86 million,” Senator Patterson said.

“In one of the most serious cases, an Adelaide woman was sentenced to two years jail after she used a false identity to steal more than $128,000 from taxpayers.

“This person had fraudulently claimed multiple welfare payments between 1985 and 2001.

“Centrelink only refers the most serious cases of fraud for prosecution, in line with the Commonwealth’s Prosecution Policy.

“These cases generally involve people who have intentionally deceived Centrelink in order to receive payments to which they were not entitled.

“Many of these customers have cheated taxpayers of more than $50,000 or claimed payments in multiple identities. ”

In the 2002/03 financial year, Australian taxpayers were saved more than $51 million per week through compliance and review activity.

“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring the social security system is available to Australians when they need it and that they all receive what they are entitled to,” said Senator Patterson.

“While the Government is keen to catch people who seek to cheat the system it also supports proper management of taxpayer funds to ensure people do not get overpaid in the first instance.

“In the Budget I secured funding for a national awareness campaign entitled “Keeping the System Fair”, which will assist Australians in understanding their full entitlements and obligations.

“The Keeping the System Fair campaign is expected to result in net savings to taxpayers of $214.9 million over the next four years.”

Welfare Fraud by State (2002-03 financial year)
State Cases Heard Convictions Conviction Rate (%) Debts Identified($)
VIC 642 638 99.4 $7,092,369
ACT 32 31 96.9 $337,586
NSW 941 909 96.6 $12,056,863
QLD 603 598 99.2 $6,259,879
SA 212 210 99.1 $1,859,192
WA 296 296 100 $2,117,197
NT 44 44 100 $420,072
TAS 104 103 99 $800,026
Australia 2,874 2,829 98.4 $30,943,184

Case Studies

  • Jeffrey Clark was sentenced in November 2002 to serve gaol time after Centrelink discovered Clark had been claiming Newstart Allowance in a false name and had been living in a marriage-like relationship without informing Centrelink.Clark was sentenced in Naracoorte magistrate’s court to 10 months imprisonment, and ordered to repay the $42,027.43 he had cheated from taxpayers.

    His spouse, Belinda Christensen, received a 4 month suspended gaol sentence and was placed on an 18-month good behaviour bond.

  • Clive Cyril Carthey was sentenced in Adelaide Magistrates court to a two-year good behaviour bond in March 2003 after Centrelink discovered he had been using a false identity to claim Newstart Allowance and disability support pension from different Centrelink offices. After pleading guilty, Carthey was also ordered to repay the $34,542.27 he had stolen from taxpayers.

Footnote: Usually the Minister uses the figure of $44 million every week in savings, which is the net figure. On this ocassion the gross figure of $51 million has been used but in future the net figure will be used.