Obtain a Financial Advantage By Deception (Commonwealth – Centrelink Charge)

– section 134.2 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code
Centrelink Fraud
A person will be charged with obtaining a financial advantage by deception if he/she deceive a Commonwealth entity to obtain some form of a financial advantage for either themselves or someone else.
Examples of Obtain a Financial Advantage By Deception (Commonwealth – Centrelink Charge)
  • Lying about your employment status on a Centrelink form to receive a pension
  • Lying about your relationship status on a Centrelink form to receive a higher allowance
  • Lying to Centrelink about your capacity to work to obtain a disability pension
Questions in cases like this
  • Did you intentionally provide misleading information?
  • Were you mistaken when you completed the Centrelink form?
  • Has your circumstances changed since you provided the information?
  • Did you receive a financial benefit that you were not entitled to?
What are some of the possible defences to Obtain a Financial Advantage By Deception (Commonwealth – Centrelink Charge)?

The following are a range of defences available if you are charged with this offence:

  • Factual dispute
  • Lack of intent to act dishonestly
  • No financial advantage was gained
  • Duress
  • Honest and reasonable mistake of belief as to fact

You should call our office on 9670 5111 to discuss your matter with one of our lawyers.

Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not has important implications for you and should be made after proper discussions with our criminal lawyers.

Maximum penalty and court that deals with this charge

There is a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for anyone found guilty of obtaining financial advantage by deception.

The Commonwealth offence of obtaining a financial advantage by deception is the sort of offence generally heard in the Magistrates’ Court. However, if the quantum of the amount of money fraudulently received is over $100,000 then the matter will be heard in the County Court.

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What is the legal definition of Obtain a Financial Advantage By Deception (Commonwealth – Centrelink Charge)?

A person commits this offence if he/she dishonestly obtains property belonging to a Commonwealth entity dishonestly with an intention of permanently deprive.

Definition of ‘Obtained’
Under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, a person is taken to have obtained property if:

  1. the person obtains ownership, possession or control of the property for himself or herself or for another person; or
  2. the first person enables ownership, possession or control of it to be retained by himself or herself; or
  3. the person induces a third person to pass ownership, possession or control of it to another person. For example, convincing someone to receive a transfer of Commonwealth money and to then forward on to another person; or
  4. the person induces a second person to enable a third person to retain ownership, possession or control of the property. For example, person A leads Person B to believe that fraudulently obtained Commonwealth money belongs to Person C.

Definition of ‘Permanently Deprive’
The Commonwealth Criminal Code defines to ‘permanently deprive’ as:

  1. a person permanently obtains funds belonging to a Commonwealth entity without intending to return it; or
  2. a person obtains funds belonging to a Commonwealth entity without intending to permanently keep it, but he/she disposes of it and treats it as if it is their own.
Legislation

The legislation for this offence can be found on section 134.2 of Criminal Code Act 1995.

Elements of the offence

For this charge to be proven, the Prosecution must establish beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. the accused dishonestly obtains a financial advantage from another person by deceiving that person; and
  2. the other person is a Commonwealth entity
“Can the Prosecution prove that you obtained a financial advantage?”
Sentencing in the higher courts

Higher CourtIn Victorian higher courts, 26 cases (134 charges) of Obtain a Financial Advantage By Deception (Commonwealth – Centrelink Charge) were heard from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. Half of these cases led to wholly suspended sentences (50.0%) and the remainder resulted in imprisonment (23.1%), partially suspended sentences (19.2%), Community Correction Order (3.8%), and adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal (3.8%).

Of those who were sentenced to prison, the majority were given a term that is between 1 and 2 years (30%). The longest period of imprisonment was between 8 and 9 years and this was imposed in 1.4% of those who were sentenced to imprisonment.1

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in the higher courts earlier than that of the Magistrates’ Court, and therefore all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 will not have this available as a sentencing option.2

Other important resources
Media information
Case studies related to Obtain a Financial Advantage By Deception (Commonwealth – Centrelink Charge)

 



[1] SACStat Higher Courts – Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) : s 134.2(1) – obtaining financial advantage by deception – Commonwealth entity < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_CRIMCODE_134_2_1.html >
[2] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >