Have you been charged with Centrelink Fraud?
Charges relating to Centrelink fraud are some of the most common charges that the Commonwealth prosecute. They are serious charges because they carry lengthy maximum periods of imprisonment (up to 10 years).
Centrelink frauds are also often cases where otherwise good people have exercised bad judgment and it is important to convey that to the Court.
Are you being interviewed by Centrelink?
If Centrelink want to interview you, you should get legal advice before you participate in an interview.
Centrelink are not always trying to help you in an interview and you should go into the interview with sound and practical advice from someone who deals with these matters a lot. These interviews can eventually be used against you in Court.
Centrelink overpayments & fraud charges
If Centrelink do not believe that you have been fraudulent or acted deceptively then they do not have to charge you. Instead, they can just start taking some of your entitlement and use it to repay the amount of money they believe you have taken.
If you disagree with the amount that Centrelink claim that you have been overpaid then you can apply for an internal review or appeal to the Social Security Administrative Tribunal.
Fraud charges occur if Centrelink believes that the amount is not small. Generally, it is unusual for Centrelink to prosecute for amounts under $5000. Whether you will be charged with fraud also depends on the level of dishonesty that Centrelink believe you have been involved in.
Centrelink Fraud Prosecutions
Once Centrelink have completed an investigation and worked out what they think the overpayment is then the matter is prosecuted by the the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).
The CDPP are a separate and independent body from Centrelink that they make a final decision on whether criminal charges will be laid. CDPP have to decide if there is a reasonable prospect that they will win the case and whether the charges should be laid. Obviously they factor into that the circumstances of the offending (as far as they know or understand them). For example where a person has made up an entirely fictitious person or the amount involved.
Pleading guilty to Centrelink fraud
If you are guilty of what Centrelink are alleging and you want to plead guilty then it is very important that your matter is prepared properly. If the overpayment was a large amount then it is important to work out a strategy that will avoid prison, if possible, and that reflects both the crime and your personal circumstances.
Avoiding conviction on a plea of guilty to Centrelink fraud
On a plea of guilty it is sometimes possible to avoid a conviction being entered against you. This is obviously a great result if you can keep your record clean. It will depend on the circumstances of the offending and often the most important factor is whether the money has been paid back to Centrelink or not.
This is a process that needs a lot of experience and good judgment to be applied to your case. The starting point is to book in to see lawyers who have a large amount of experience in these types of prosecutions.