WA woman accused of exploiting superannuation hardship payment

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A 34-year-old High Wycombe woman has been charged with allegedly submitting multiple false claims to gain early access to superannuation savings, under a scheme designed to assist members of the community who are in severe financial hardship.

The woman is the fourth person to be charged by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) anti-fraud Taskforce Iris and her arrest follows a referral from the Australian Taxation Office-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce.

Police will allege the woman submitted several false hardship claims on behalf of other people to access superannuation payments of up to $10,000 each.

It will be alleged that after successfully receiving a hardship payment from her own superannuation account, she then transferred the remaining balance into another fund and made another hardship application.

AFP Taskforce Iris investigators executed a search warrant at the woman’s home in the Perth suburb of High Wycombe on Friday, 22 May, where they seized several documents, $1,750 cash, ink-based business identification and certification stamps, and electronic devices.

The total number/value of the alleged fraudulent claims is still being assessed.

The woman is expected to face Perth Magistrates Court on 19 June 2020 charged with:

  • Two counts of making a false Commonwealth document with the intention that document be used to dishonestly induce a third person to accept it as genuine and if it was so accepted, to dishonestly obtain a gain, contrary to subsection 144.1 (5) of the Criminal Code Act 1995; and
  • Two counts of knowingly using false Commonwealth documents to dishonestly induce an employee of an organisation, in their capacity as an authorised representative, to accept it as genuine and, if it was so accepted, to dishonestly obtain a gain, contrary to contrary to subsection 145.1 (5) of the Criminal Code Act 1995;

The hardship provision pre-dates the temporary support measures introduced by the Federal Government because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants must meet several financial criteria to access a payment of up to $10,000 from their superannuation account.

AFP Deputy Commissioner Brett Pointing said at a time of unprecedented demand for Government benefits, the AFP and its partners are committed to identifying and prosecuting anyone who tries to exploit the system for their own greed and access money for which they are not eligible.

“Fraud is far from a victimless crime and false applications for these packages undermine the system and can delay access to people who genuinely need help,” he said.

Investigations into alleged criminal abuse of the tax and superannuation systems are a priority for the joint-agency Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT), of which the AFP is a member.

The SFCT brings together the knowledge, resources and experience of relevant law enforcement and regulatory agencies to identify and address the most serious and complex forms of financial crime, which costs the Australian community millions of dollars in lost revenue each year.

ATO Deputy Commissioner and SFCT Chief Will Day said this means we can bring in partner agencies and take action quickly and decisively.

“This arrest demonstrates the SFCT’s ability to deliver a whole of government response to target alleged criminal behaviour.

“Whilst we have a strong focus on the government’s stimulus packages, fraudsters should be aware that this does not mean that, like in this instance, we are not also constantly reviewing the existing and enduring initiatives that are in place to support Australians facing hardship.

“It sends a clear message to the community that we do bring those who exploit the tax and super system to account for their actions. We have robust systems in place that stop this sort of crime – quickly, and decisively.”

The SFCT includes the Australian Taxation Office, AFP, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Attorney-General’s Department (AGD), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) and Department of Home Affairs, including Australian Border Force (ABF).

The AFP’s anti-fraud Taskforce IRIS is working closely with partner agencies to safeguard Government measures designed to assist the community and ensure the money goes where it is needed.

Anyone with information about suspected fraud of Government benefits can make a report via the “Reporting Fraud” page on the Services Australia website at servicesaustralia.gov.au/fraud, or by calling the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 13 15 24.

Tip-offs about taxation or superannuation matters can also be made to the Australian Taxation Office online at ato.gov.au/tipoff or by calling the ATO on 1800 060 062.

Editor’s Note:

Hightail link to the arrest footage

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