Pregnant woman jailed for fraud
A 26-YEAR-OLD pregnant woman was sent to prison after pleading guilty to 22 fraudrelated offences in the Proserpine Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
Semana Elizabeth Reardon was charged with one group of 14 offences relating to the Federal Government’s disaster relief recovery funds, one group of seven attempted offences relating to the same circumstances and one single offence relating to parenting payments.
Commonwealth prosecutor Kate Milbourne said Reardon had either obtained or tried to obtain payments totalling $23,000, which she was not entitled to.
Of the payments she was successful in obtaining, the court heard Reardon had already repaid $7,135.22 through benefit with-holdings, with an outstanding balance of $9,158.53 still owed.
Ms Milbourne said Reardon committed some of the offences in 2009, while she was still the subject of an Intensive Correctional Order (ICO), made on October 21, 2008.
In summing up, she said Reardon had exploited the system and had taken avantage of a state of crisis to obtain easy money. She also said Reardon was caught as a result of a tip-off rather than any admissions of her own.
Duty lawyer Antoinette Morton said Reardon was a mother-of-three, with one dependent toddler and a fourth child on the way, due in March 2014. Her explanation for the parenting payment offence was that the children’s father had not taken custody during an agreed period.
She said Reardon “inappropriately transferred the money she felt she was entitled to at the time”.
As for the remaining charges, Ms Morton said Reardon was suffering from alcohol dependency and drug addiction at the time. She said these behaviours were a thing of the past.
Magistrate Haydn Stjernqvist noted that Reardon was sentenced to the ICO in 2008 as a result of six previous fraud-related offences. He also noted she was not stopped by her own conscience, saying but for the tip-off, the scale of her offending could have been worse.
He spoke of her level of deception in defrauding a system that “relies on that very rare commodity out there in the community – honesty”.
For the 21 offences connected to the disaster relief recovery funds, Reardon was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment with five months to serve. On her release she will be placed on a $1500 good behaviour bond for 18 months. She must also repay the outstanding amount of $9158.53. For the offence relating to the parenting payments, she received a $500 fine.