A 70-year-old Queensland woman was today sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment for collecting her dead mother’s pension for nearly 20 years and defrauding the Australian community of $254,440. She will serve six months of the sentence before being released on a recognisance to be of good behaviour for a period of 18 months.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) prosecuted Frances Bernice Whittington in the Townsville District Court for offending dating back to 1993 when her mother Joanna Creagh, who also used the identity Joan Ivy Coleman, died.
Prior to her death, Whittington’s mother had been receiving Centrelink benefits in two names: Joanna Creagh and Joan Ivy Coleman. When she died, Centrelink cancelled Joanna Creagh’s payments. However, Centrelink was unaware that Joanna Creagh was also receiving benefits in the name of Joan Ivy Coleman and continued to make the payments to Joan Ivy Coleman’s bank account.
Whittington had full access to Joan Ivy Coleman’s bank account and regularly withdrew the funds that continued to be paid by Centrelink until 2013. Over a 20 year period Whittington received pension payments totalling $254,440.20.
Whittington contacted Centrelink on a number of occasions throughout the period of offending to advise of a change of address for Joan Ivy Coleman, each time updating the address on Centrelink records to her own address.
On at least one of the occasions when Whittington contacted Centrelink to update Joan Ivy Coleman’s address, she purported to be Joan Ivy Coleman.
Whittington also began receiving welfare payments of her own in May 1999 when she applied for and was granted the Government’s Newstart allowance. She continued to receive payments of Newstart allowance while withdrawing the payments which had been made to the Joan Ivy Coleman bank account until 2013.
As a result of checks conducted by Centrelink in 2013, Centrelink detected the offences and cancelled the payments to the Joan Ivy Coleman account.
Frances Bernice Whittington was convicted and sentenced on 28 May 2015 on:
- one count of fraud contrary to section 408C of the Queensland Criminal Code
- one count of defrauding the Commonwealth contrary to section 29D of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth)
- one count of obtaining a financial advantage by a deception contrary to section 134.2(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
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