On 7 June 2016, Raymond Wilkinson of Western Australia pleaded guilty to making false statements with the intention of dishonestly obtaining a gain from the Commonwealth, and attempting to obtain a financial advantage by deception.
Between March 2006 and September 2011, Wilkinson made a series of false statements to conceal his relationship to his de facto partner, later wife, so he would be paid at the single rate for the Disability Support Pension, and later the Age Pension.
Both the Disability Support Pension and the Age Pension are administered by the Department of Human Services (Centrelink), and are means tested against the income and assets of the claimant as well as their partner.
During an initial interview with Centrelink to determine eligibility for these pensions, potential recipients are clearly told their obligations to notify the agency within 14 days of any change in their circumstances, including changes in income, assets and their relationship status.
Throughout the period of offending, Wilkinson was recorded on Centrelink’s records as single. However in 2005 he had started living with a woman who later became his de facto partner.
In March 2006, Wilkinson was interviewed by Centrelink and claimed his partner was his sister and that he was sharing accommodation with her and her husband.
He again made false statements about who he was living with in March 2008, when he said he was living with his brother, and in July 2010, when he again claimed that his partner was his sister.
As a result of these statements, he received $59,806.41 in Disability Support Pension he was not entitled to. In sentencing, this offence was found to be aggravated by the large amount defrauded and the lengthy period over which it occurred.
In September 2011, Wilkinson tried unsuccessfully to transfer to the Age Pension at the single rate, again lying about his relationship to his partner. This was the subject of charge two. The sentencing judge found this offence to be aggravated because it involved a claim for a benefit that was false from the outset.
Wilkinson’s deception was revealed after Centrelink reviewed his entitlement to be granted the Age Pension and requested further information about his relationship to the person he named as his sister.
During an interview with a Centrelink officer in September 2011, Wilkinson admitted that he had been living with a de facto partner for several years and that his conduct had been “deceptive and wrong”.
Charge / Sentence
Wilkinson was convicted on 7 June 2016 and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment to be released after nine months, after entering into a recognisance of $5,000 to be of good behaviour for 12 months, in relation to:
- One count of making false statements with the intention to dishonestly obtain a gain from the Commonwealth contrary to section 135.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
- One count of attempting to obtain a financial advantage by deception contrary to sections 11.1(1) and 134.2(1)) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
In sentencing, the Judge said: “The social security system relies on the honesty of applicants for, and recipients of, benefits. The system is a major impost on the Australian Government’s revenue and taxpayers. Frauds of the kind perpetrated … in this case are prevalent and difficult to detect. General deterrence is an important sentencing consideration, and that is the case so far as you are concerned also, Mr Wilkinson.”