Great-nanna ad­mits $300k wel­fare fraud to cash in on $3.8m es­tate in­her­i­tance

Geelong Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - GREG DUN­DAS CON­TIN­UED: P4

A LEOPOLD great-grand­mother has ad­mit­ted de­fraud­ing tax­pay­ers of al­most $300,000 as she bids for a much big­ger wind­fall from a de­ceased es­tate.

Noel Jen­nifer Newl­ing told Cen­tre­link for 21 years that she was sin­gle so she could claim a widow’s al­lowance and larger pay­ments from the age pen­sion, Gee­long County Court heard yes­ter­day.

She told the agency she lived with her former next-door neigh­bour, share trader Michael Stans­feld, but was not in a re­la­tion­ship with him. But when Mr Stans­feld died in 2016 leav­ing most of his $3.8 mil­lion es­tate to char­ity, Mrs Newl­ing owned up to the re­la­tion­ship.

The court heard the woman, now 76, was un­aware of Mr Stans­feld’s wealth un­til he died, and has now chal­lenged the will in the Supreme Court, say­ing they were part­ners.

Com­mon­wealth pros­e­cu­tor Dal­las Hen­der­son said the will re­ferred to Mrs Newl­ing as Mr Stans­feld’s ‘care­taker’, al­lo­cat­ing her $50,000, a $185,000 prop­erty in Cam­per­down and a $34,000 car.

She also con­tin­ues to live, rent-free in a prop­erty at Leopold owned by the es­tate.

The ‘care­taker’ de­scrip­tion was also used in forms sub­mit­ted to Cen­tre­link by Mrs Newl- ing. Mrs Newl­ing wrong­fully ac­cepted more than $287,000 in wel­fare pay­ments be­tween 1995 and 2016, plead­ing guilty to counts of de­fraud­ing the Com­mon­wealth and dis­hon­estly ob­tain­ing fi­nan­cial ad­van­tage by de­cep­tion yes­ter­day.

The money was made up of falsely claimed widow al­lowances and the dif­fer­ence be­tween the age pen­sion she re­ceived for be­ing sin­gle, as op­posed to what she should have got as Mr Stans­feld’s part­ner.

The court was told she tried to ne­go­ti­ate a deal with the agency to pay back the money af­ter the man died, seek­ing in­dem­nity against fur­ther penalty and the chance to clar­ify the sta­tus of their re­la­tion­ship.

A year later, with the Supreme Court ac­tion afoot, her lawyers wrote to Cen­tre­link, ad­mit­ting the fraud, say­ing Mr Stans­feld was an abu­sive part­ner.

Judge Su­san Co­hen pointed out Mrs Newl­ing had con­tra­dicted her­self, and needed to dis­own the Cen­tre­link pay­ments to mount the case she was Mr Stans­feld’s part­ner and en­ti­tled to more from his es­tate.

With what she’d al­ready got from the es­tate, Mrs Newl­ing could have com­fort­ably started pay­ing back the money owed to Cen­tre­link, the judge said, but the court heard just $1500 had so far been re­couped.

Ms Hen­der­son ar­gued Mrs Newl­ing was act­ing for “greed not need”, say­ing the $280,000 rip-off un­der­mined the wel­fare sys­tem.

“That in­jury is upon all tax­pay­ers,” she said.

De­fence lawyer Michael Vines said Mrs Newl­ing’s willing­ness and abil­ity to re­pay the debt in rea­son­able time needed to be con­sid­ered.

“There is a real and mean­ing­ful prospect the amount of over­pay­ment will be at­tended to, not on the drip, not go­ing on for­ever,” he said.

While the of­fence would usu­ally de­mand an im­me­di­ate prison term, Mr Vines ar­gued her age, clean record and frank ad­mis­sions should help her avoid time be­hind bars.

Mrs Newl­ing will be sen­tenced on Tues­day.

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