Cathy Jayne hits out after fraud case collapses
ONE-TIME Adelaide property tycoon Cathy Jayne Hogben (nee Pearce) has lashed out at federal authorities for their “disgraceful” actions after her welfare fraud case collapsed.
The ex-BRW rich-lister was accused of stealing $15,000 from Centrelink.
Commonwealth prosecutors had accused Hogben, 44, of fraudulently receiving the cash from illegal Newstart Allowance claims, dating back more than five years.
Ms Hogben had not formally pleaded to three counts of obtaining a financial advantage for herself between April 2011 and July 2012 at Glenelg North, Somerton Park and other undisclosed areas.
Among the allegations were claims she under-declared earnings from Peter F Burns Real Estate — the Brighton agency where her late husband, Myles, 69, worked.
Ms Hogben, whose fortune was once valued at $19 million, had denied the claims outside court, insisting the case “was pretty thin to be honest”, based on wrong information, and a departmental mistake.
An arrest warrant had been issued in November last year for the Somerton Park-based housewife after she failed to attend court. If convicted, she had faced a maximum 12 months’ jail for each offence.
Just weeks after the case was launched, her ex-husband died after a brief illness. They had separated in 2011.
But her legal battle took a suprise turn in the Adelaide Magistrates Court last week, when prosecutors suddenly dropped the charges without explanation. There was no application for costs.
The mum of five, and who has four stepchildren, yesterday condemned the government for blindly prosecuting without, what she argued, any adequate reason.
“The treatment has definitely been disgraceful,” she said. “I find it astonishing that there is not a more thorough process. It makes me angry that I have not been given a proper explanation. “I think the result with the charges being dropped speaks for itself. The case has been a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.
“The past 12 months have been horrendous as I have been living under a cloud of suspicion.
“It’s an empty feeling. You just get told that the ‘charges are dropped and you are free to go’. There is no ‘whoops we were wrong’. There is no compensation, no apology. I think I would be well within my rights to give the Government a spray and I may even take that further later.”
A Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions spokesman yesterday said an “independent assessment” had found “sufficient evidence” to lay charges linked to the “under declaring” of income.
He said after receiving information from her lawyers, it was “determined that whilst there was sufficient evidence to continue the prosecution, it was no longer in the public interest to do so”.
He said all cases are “assessed, and may be reassessed in response to information”. A Human Services department spokeswoman said last night: “It would not be appropriate for our department to comment further on the matter.”
CLEARED: Cathy Jayne Hogben outside court.