Sydney man charged over COVID-19 payment fraud

hand holding handcuffs

A Sydney man has been charged making allegedly fraudulent claims of more than $130,000 in COVID-19 Disaster Payments and Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments, following a Taskforce Integrity investigation.

The Taiwanese national, 34, is due to appear in Downing Centre Local Court today (27 October 2022), charged with fraud and proceeds of crime offences.

Police will allege the man was part of a criminal syndicate that had been fraudulently claiming COVID-19 Disaster and Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments.

Taskforce Integrity is a joint AFP and Services Australia initiative to identify and target serious criminal activity within Australia’s welfare system.

The investigation into this matter began as a result of information that indicated payments were being claimed using false identities.

Police allege the syndicate was using stolen identities, claiming payments in their names and directing the funds to bank accounts controlled by the syndicate.

AFP officers, in concert with Services Australia fraud investigators, executed a search warrant at a unit in the Sydney CBD yesterday (26 October 2022). The man was subsequently arrested and charged over the fraud allegations.

During a search of the address, investigators located and seized designer handbags and accessories, in excess of 20 mobile telephones and $77,500 in cash.

AFP Detective Inspector Rachel Ball said the AFP and Services Australia are committed to stamping out criminal exploitation of Commonwealth payments designed to help those in genuine need.

“Fraud of Commonwealth programs is an area of key focus for the AFP and its partners, and we will be relentless in pursuing any people who seek to exploit our welfare system,” she said.

The man was charged with:

  • One count of obtaining financial advantage by deception contrary to section 134.2(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth),
  • One count of dealing in the proceeds of crime, money or property more than $50,000 contrary to section 400.5(2) of the Criminal Code (Cth) and;
  • One count of dealing with property reasonably suspected of being the proceeds of crime contrary to section 400.9(1A) of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The maximum penalty for these offences is 10 years’ imprisonment, seven years’ imprisonment and two years’ imprisonment, respectively.

Investigations into the fraud syndicate are continuing.

The Australian Government introduced the lump sum COVID-19 Disaster Payments in June 2021 to assist people whose income was affected by state and territory government restrictions following COVID-19 outbreaks. Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments were introduced to assist eligible claimants who were unable to earn an income due to the requirement to self-isolate or to care for someone who was required to self-isolate.

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