Preg­nant woman jailed for fraud

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

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.

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