A MANDURAH woman who claimed more than $45,000 in Centrelink overpayments will spend the next eight months behind bars after being sentenced in Mandurah Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Mary-Ellen Hughes pleaded guilty to two counts of obtaining a financial advantage in relation to offences committed between August 2011 and October 2013.
The court heard Hughes, 51, claimed a carer’s pension to look after a family member.
During the time she was in receipt of this payment, Hughes was also employed full-time.
Centrelink requires fortnightly reports from clients claiming a carer’s allowance.
During the first charge period, Hughes declared no income.
She then under-declared earnings or reported no income for the second charge period.
The total overpayment claimed by Hughes was $45,258.34.
Counsel for Hughes said his client had clearly done the wrong thing and was devastated by her behaviour.
But Magistrate Vivien Edwards pointed out Hughes had two prior convictions for similar offending in 2009 and said the offender had “actively lied about employment” to Centrelink officers.
“Imprisonment is the only penalty I am able to impose,” she said.
Magistrate Edwards drew back from the maximum 12-month term available to her, taking into account Hughes’ guilty plea.
Hughes’ imprisonment was immediate and she was taken into custody following her appearance.
She was also ordered to re-pay the outstanding amount of money.