On 13 December 2016, 62-year-old Raymond John Widders was sentenced to three years imprisonment after pleading guilty to obtaining a financial advantage by deception, which saw him overpaid $169,390.89 in social security benefits.
The charges involved the defendant simultaneously claiming Centrelink benefits in his birth name of Raymond John Widders when he was already claiming them in the name by which he was known, Ray John Ireland.
Widders intentionally misrepresented his true circumstances to Centrelink to claim the two social security income support payments; both are subject to an income and assets test, and claimants are only entitled to receive one at any time.
Widders’ offending took place over nine years. He received Newstart Allowance payments in the name of Widders from December 2002 to 24 January 2005, and May 2006 onwards. He received Disability Support Payments in the name of Ireland during the entire period.
Bank records showed the defendant withdrew the entire Ireland pension on the day it was paid, and arranged for the Widders’ payments to be automatically transferred to a home loan account.
Centrelink started investigating Widders’ eligibility after receiving a tip off from a member of the public in April 2014. Following private investigators and the Australian Federal Police carrying out surveillance of his house in early 2015, a search warrant was executed at his home.
During the search police found correspondence, bank statements and identification cards in the names of Widders and Ireland. The photographic identification cards showed the same person was depicted on the cards for Widders and Ireland.
Charge / Sentence
On 13 December 2016, Widders was sentenced after a guilty plea on two counts of obtaining a financial advantage from the Commonwealth by deception contrary to section 134.2(1) of the Crimes Act 1914.
- Count 1: 12 months imprisonment to be released after serving 12 months, after entering into a recognisance of $2,000 to be of good behaviour for two years.
- Count 2: Three years imprisonment to be released after serving 12 months, after entering into a recognisance of $2,000 to be of good behaviour for two years. Also ordered to pay reparation of $166,419.49 to the Commonwealth.
The total head sentence was 3 years commencing 13/12/16, to be released after serving 12 months, after entering into a recognisance of $2,000 to be of good behaviour for two years (36 days pre-sentence custody declared).
When it came to sentencing, deterrence was paramount for Judge Long.
‘This offending is to be viewed as an attempt at betterment. It was persistent and lasted over an extended period—two years in relation to the first charge and nine years in relation to the second charge. It involved the use of multiple identities. A large amount of legitimate benefit was paid.’
He said: ‘Denunciation of conduct that preys upon the social security system is called for. General deterrence needs to be reflected in the sentence I impose today. A sentence of imprisonment is appropriate in all the circumstances.’