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Case study: Centrelink employee lodged fraudulent claims to receive benefits

On 24 October 2019, after pleading guilty to two counts of obtaining a financial advantage by a deception, Queensland woman and former Department of Human Services employee Rebecca Teece, also known as Rebecca O’Grady, was sentenced in the Downing Centre District Court to 14 months imprisonment. She was released immediately on a recognisance in the sum of $200 conditioned that she be of good behaviour for a period of 13 months.

Ms Teece was employed by Centrelink between 2012 and 2015 at various offices in New South Wales. During this time she made fraudulent claims for benefits in order to receive a disability support pension.

In late 2012, while working in the Coffs Harbour Centrelink office, Ms Teece applied for a disability support pension in the name of Rebecca O’Grady, submitting a false ophthalmologist report claiming she suffered severe vision impairment. The application was approved and Ms Teece then received disability support payments from December 2012 to May 2015.

In 2014, while working at the Pottsville Centrelink office, Ms Teece applied for and approved her own application for a disability support pension, again for blindness, using the false name Rachel Lewis. Ms Teece then received disability support payments to which she was not entitled, between November 2014 and May 2015.

In March 2015, Ms Teece also applied for and approved two carer’s payments using the false name Margareet Lewis. The total amount obtained by Ms Teece over the course of her offending was $87,481.73.

In sentencing Ms Teece, His Honour Judge Arnott SC said “There is a significant need for general deterrence in cases of fraud upon the social security system…. The social security system relies on the honesty of applicants. It is based on trust and when the trust is abused sentences must be salutatory.” In relation to Ms Teece’s conduct he said “During the course of her criminal activity she created false documents and continued to exploit the trust of the Commonwealth administrative processes to her financial advantage”.

This matter was investigated and referred by Services Australia (formerly known as the Department of Human Services).