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Western Sydney man and woman charged over COVID-19 payment fraud

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Western Sydney man and woman charged over COVID-19 payment fraud

This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police and Services Australia.

Two Malaysian nationals have been charged over their alleged roles in a syndicate suspected of fraudulently claiming more than $440,000 in COVID-19 Disaster Payments, following a Taskforce Integrity investigation.

The 34-year-old woman and 27-year-old man have been granted bail to appear in Burwood Magistrates Court on 16 June 2022, charged with proceeds of crime offences.

Police will allege the pair are part of a fraud syndicate that has been advertising services on social media platforms as ‘agents’ to help people claim COVID-19 Disaster Payments.

Operation Quantum began in September 2021 under Taskforce Integrity, a joint AFP and Services Australia initiative established to identify and target criminal activity within Australia’s welfare system.

The investigation followed reports that payments were being claimed using false identities and that payments approved for some legitimate recipients were being redirected to other bank accounts without their knowledge.

Police allege customers who had employed the online service allegedly operated by the fraud syndicate, had provided identity documents to the ‘agents’ and some reportedly paid up to $1000 for the agents to facilitate their claims.

AFP officers, with assistance from Services Australia fraud investigators, executed a search warrant at a home in the Sydney suburb of Lidcombe today (9 June). The man and woman were subsequently arrested and charged over the fraud allegations.

AFP Commander Chris Woods said the AFP and Services Australia are committed to stamping out criminal exploitation of Commonwealth support packages and protecting those who are most in need of the help.

“The AFP and its partners will be relentless in identifying and prosecuting people who are trying to exploit the pandemic for their own greed,” Commander Woods said.

Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen said the arrest should serve as a warning for those seeking to commit fraud or prey on vulnerable people during times of crisis.

“We take fraud very seriously and have a responsibility to prevent people taking advantage of those who are genuinely in need,” Mr Jongen said.

“Our strong relationship with our AFP partners means we’re able to quickly find, investigate and disrupt fraud.”

The woman has been charged with two counts of dealing in proceeds of crime, contrary to section 400.6(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The total value of alleged proceeds of crime for these charges is $39,750.

The man was charged with one count of dealing in proceeds of crime, contrary to section 400.6(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The total value alleged to be proceeds of crime for this charge is $17,850.

The maximum penalty for this offence is five years’ imprisonment.

Investigations into the fraud syndicate are continuing.

The Australian Government introduced the lump sum COVID-19 Disaster Payments in June 2021 to assist people whose income was affected by state and territory government restrictions following COVID-19 outbreaks.

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