On 10 June 2016, 49-year-old Brenda Pryor was sentenced in the District Court of New South Wales to two years’ imprisonment after being found guilty of twice using false documents to receive Carer Payment and Carer Allowance (“Carer Payment”) from Centrelink to the value of $103,985.52.
Pryor’s offending took place over five years commencing in April 2008 when she submitted a medical report to Centrelink purportedly prepared and signed by a medical practitioner. The report supported Pryor’s application to receive Carer Payment, which is designed to help people unable to work due to the demands of caring for someone.
Pryor claimed she was providing constant care for her brother who was involved in a serious car accident in 2008. However, the medical report provided to Centrelink was false as the medical practitioner had neither completed nor signed it. Pryor used the medical report to dishonestly induce Centrelink staff to accept it as genuine in order to receive Carer Payment.
The second charge of using a false document related to Pryor lodging a Carer Payment Income and Assets form in November 2011 that was purportedly completed and signed by her brother when he had in fact done neither. Again, Pryor used the falsified document to deceive Centrelink staff and continue receiving Carer Payment.
Pryor’s deception was uncovered when Centrelink completed a PAYG data match with the Australian Taxation Office and discovered that Pryor had been employed since September 2009, but had failed to advise Centrelink of this fact.
Centrelink also discovered that Pryor’s brother had returned to full-time employment in September 2008, over two years before she lodged the Carer Payment Income and Assets form. As a result of these investigations, Pryor’s Carer Payment was suspended in October 2013.
Charge / Sentence
Pryor pleaded guilty and was sentenced on 10 June 2016 in relation to two counts of using a forged document for a public official to accept as genuine contrary to section 145.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
Pryor was sentenced to full-time imprisonment for 18 months for both sequences, partially accumulated to a total sentence of two years’ imprisonment. Pursuant to section 20(1)(b), she is to be released after 12 months’ imprisonment upon giving security of $100 without surety on the condition that she be of good behaviour for three years. A reparation order was also made in the sum of $100,985.52.
In sentencing Pryor, Acting Judge Charteris SC said: “A message must be sent not only to the offender but to the wider community that our Parliament and our community views fraudulent behaviour in relation to social security benefits very seriously indeed. The nature of such payments is that the benefit application is processed quickly so as to deliver benefits to those who are in need. As a result, it is not necessarily particularly difficult to obtain benefits to which one is not entitled. When there is such fraudulent conduct as this matter reveals, there must be a period of imprisonment…”.