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Operation Caulis: How the AFP smashed a Family Daycare fraud syndicate

13 May 2023, 8:02am
Media Release

Operation Caulis: How the AFP smashed a Family Daycare fraud syndicate

Editor’s Note: Images are available via Hightail

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has partnered with Casefile for Season Two of Crime Interrupted. Here’s a sneak peak of Episode Two: Operation Caulis launching on Friday 12 May 2023.

In August 2015, the AFP received a report flagging a suspicious family daycare provider, claiming around $800,000 a fortnight in childcare subsidy payments.  

It would later be discovered that a woman and her two adult children were running a criminal fraud syndicate, falsely claiming a total of $13 million in government childcare subsidy entitlements.

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Amanda Glover and Detective Sergeant Amanda Humbley took on the investigation in the AFP Fraud and Anti-Corruption team.

The team is responsible for investigating serious and complex fraud against the Commonwealth, including childcare subsidy fraud.

Operation Caulis was launched after the AFP received the suspicious report, identified by the Department of Education.

“When we first got Operation Caulis, we were seeing around eight or nine-hundred thousand dollars a fortnight in childcare claims being paid out for 57 educators,” Det. Act. Supt Glover said.

The ‘educators’ claimed they worked 50 hours per week for a family daycare business, ‘Hello Children Family Day Care’ looking after around 400 children across Melbourne.

Det.Sgt Amanda Humbley said it was hard to believe the scale of fraud that was happening in an unlikely area such as family daycare.

“At the time, I did have a number of children in childcare and it was costing me a fortune,” Det.Sgt Humbley said.

“Not only was I coming into work every day, paying exorbitant childcare fees  but at the same time as doing that, I was investigating a group of people who were fraudulently claiming childcare subsidies, and earning money from it rather than paying money towards it.”

The AFP identified a women in her 50s, along with her two adult children were in-fact running a criminal fraud syndicate, under the guise of three family daycare providers operating in the outer southern-western suburbs of Melbourne.

Det.Sgt Amanda Humbley said it was shocking to see the criminal fraud syndicate make no attempt to pretend to care for children as they claimed.

“We saw them going shopping. We saw them travelling overseas. They were essentially just living their lives as everybody else does, but without having to work for it.”

Det. Act. Supt Amanda Glover said when police started surveillance on the suspects, all of the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

“We were starting to piece together things with surveillance. There was certainly no children being dropped off at school. No children being dropped off in the morning. No educators going to collect children before school.”

The five-month investigation resulted in the arrest of 13 suspects, the seizure of $1.18 million in assets and the three offenders, who were all related, facing time behind bars.  

The family were sentenced to a collective total of nine years behind bars.

Det. Act. Supt. Amanda Glover said although some people see fraud as a victimless crime, the real victim is the Australian community. 

“When we got to the end of Operation Caulis and in particular the family group were being sentenced, and I’m sitting there in the courtroom. I was so happy to see that fraud is taken seriously and that there are penalties for taking money that you’re not entitled to.”

Hear the full story on the second episode of Crime Interrupted, Operation Caulis, is now available to listen for free on all podcast streaming services, with episodes to be released monthly.

Note: Interviews available on request.

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