On 26 May 2017, 29-year-old Melissa Jade Higgins was sentenced by the New South Wales District Court to 7 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 4 years for fraudulently claiming $3,646,269.72 in child care benefits, forging documents and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
It the largest single case of proven childcare fraud in Australia’s history.
On 80 occasions between 20 September 2013 and 25 March 2015, Higgins used her child day care business Aussie Giggles in Albury, NSW, to fraudulently claim the Special Child Care Benefit (SCCB) meant to subsidise children from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds.
Higgins’ claims were in regard to 14 children, but she was found to have lied about when they attended, the number of hours she claimed the children attended care, and she also claimed a much higher hourly rate than the standard one charged by Aussie Giggles.
Higgins lodged the false claims for SCCB electronically by using an integrated software program via the Child Care Management System maintained by the Department of Human Services.
Higgins dealt with the proceeds of the false claims by moving approximately $3,621,307.90, between company and personal bank accounts.
Higgins was arrested in March 2015 following a joint investigation by the Australian Federal Police, Department of Human Services and Department of Education and Training. The CDPP carried out the prosecution.
CDPP Deputy Director David Adsett said the prosecution highlights the determination of our law enforcement agencies and extensive investigative efforts to stop people rorting the family day care system.
‘People using calculated and deliberate tactics to cheat the Family Day Care system will be caught and punished, including the possibility of being gaoled,’ he said.
CDPP Media contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 6206 5708
Charges and sentence:
Higgins was charged with:
- 66 counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, contrary to sections 11.2 and 134.2 of the Criminal Code (Cth)
- 14 counts of using a forged document contrary to section 145.1 of the Criminal Code (Cth)
- one count of dealing with money/property believed to be proceeds of crime worth $1 million or more, contrary to section 400.3 of the Criminal Code (Cth).
Higgins was sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment with non-parole period of 4. She will not become eligible for parole until May 2021.
About the CDPP
The Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) is an independent prosecution service established by Parliament to prosecute alleged offences against Commonwealth law that are referred by agencies including the federal and state police authorities. The CDPP aims to provide an effective, ethical, high quality and independent criminal prosecution service for Australia in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth.