Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Kristy Lee WESSING - Welfare fraud

Year: 
2017-2018
Category: 
Social Security Fraud
Location: 
Tasmania

On 15 September 2017, Kristy Lee Wessing, 36, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in the Supreme Court in Hobart, after pleading guilty to receiving $160,766 in Centrelink benefits to which she was not entitled. The maximum penalty on each count is five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of $33,000.

Wessing lied about her living arrangements and marital status on four occasions between 2003 to 2009. This saw her receive parenting payments she was not entitled to until November 2013.

Wessing started fraudulently claiming parenting payments in 2003 when she lodged a Parenting Payment form after giving birth to a daughter. In it she stated she was a single mother and claimed her former partner was living at another address.

  • Parenting Payments are paid to people who have a dependent child under 16 years in their care. The rate of Parenting Payment paid is dependent on whether they are single or in a married/de-facto relationship.

Over the 10-year-period Wessing claimed the single parent benefits, she routinely misled Centrelink officials, as she claimed not to be living with the father of her two children.

After a tip off led Centrelink to start investigating Wessing in May 2013, they discovered she had been living with her partner since she started claiming.

They also found that an address Wessing had provided was in fact a vacant bush block, a landlord did not exist, the pair had a joint bank account and had bought cars together, had jointly signed rental leases, and her partner had worked with various employers during the majority of the period.

It was also discovered that Wessing had married her partner in 2011.

Charges/sentence

On 15 September 2017, Kristy Wessing was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment to be released after serving 12 months, after entering into a recognisance of $2,000 on the condition she is of good behaviour for 24 months, in relation to:

  • 4 counts of dishonestly influencing a Commonwealth public official, contrary to section 135.1(7) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

Sentencing remarks

In sentencing, Justice Tennent said Wessing’s offending was a ‘serious example’ of its type and ‘always difficult to detect’.

‘Centrelink relies on a level of honesty from the people who claim benefits and your deceptions … resulted in your claiming benefits to which you were not entitled for almost 11 years. You did not stop offending but only did so when you were caught. The amount overall was significant.’

As a result, Justice Home said any sentence must ‘reflect the need for both specific and general deterrence’.

‘General deterrence in particular is important because this type of offending impacts on the public purse. It is sometimes perceived as a victimless crime because it is only “the government” which appears to suffer. The offending is also perceived as being an easy way to extra money. Those types of views need to be shown to be patently wrong.’