IN COURT: Carol Ann Tyler, 60, from Brassall, at Ipswich Magistrates Court on January 24, 2019.
IN COURT: Carol Ann Tyler, 60, from Brassall, at Ipswich Magistrates Court on January 24, 2019. Ross Irby

Stress of supporting adult children blamed for $31K rip off

A MUM says she was struggling financially to look after her three adult children when she ripped off Centrelink for more than $31,000 in welfare.

Carol Ann Tyler, 60, from Brassall, pleaded guilty in Ipswich Magistrates Court to five charges of fraud, in that she obtained a financial advantage of $31,357.48 from the Commonwealth.

Her ongoing offending took place when she was living at Maryborough.

Tyler's lawyer told the court the mum of five was "terrified" of being jailed.

Federal prosecutor Tom Ward said Tyler's offending began in October 2011 when she gave false information to the government department to receive a NewStart Allowance.

In four subsequent offences, she provided false information or did not notify the department of income changes so she could receive carer's payments that she was not eligible to receive.

These offences took place between April 2012 and November 2013; between April 24, 2014, and September 2014; between April 29, 2015, and May 12, 12; and August 12, 2015, and August 12, 2016.

Mr Ward said the inaccurate information resulted in an overpayment of benefits totalling $31,357.48.

He said Tyler had received welfare since 1993.

She received money she was not entitled to while working as a commercial cleaner part-time.

She was made to go back to fortnightly reporting in March 2015 when the department found out she had been employed and obtained benefits to which she was only partially entitled.

Queried by Magistrate David Shepherd about this, her Legal Aid lawyer Bill Siganto said after an "income intervention review" Tyler was placed back to fortnightly reporting of her income.

Previously she'd been required only to report if there was a change in her financial circumstances.

Mr Ward said during the time that she received benefits, Tyler received a gross income of $88,493 but only declared $17,866.

She received $74,017 in benefits when eligible only to receive about $42,000.

It involved overpayments during 90 fortnights.

The department has since withheld some of her payments and by doing this Tyler repaid $12,909.92.

This left $18,447 outstanding that she is yet to repay.

Mr Ward described it as being "significant under-declarations of her income".

"She is terrified at the prospect of going into custody today," Mr Siganto said.

He explained the Maryborough born mum had been married three times.

All marriages had ended but she was happy with her new partner who was supportive.

He outlined the serious medical issues of her youngest son, now aged 27.

He said with her five adult children she had become stressed, being the bread-winner who gave financial support to three of them, but led a modest lifestyle.

"It led to her being careless, stupid. I would say turning a blind eye to her responsibilities with the department," Mr Siganto said.

Mr Shepherd said Tyler's dishonesty was ongoing or nearly five years.

He said many families had financial or medical pressures, but did not cause a criminal imposition on tax payers.

But he noted that the monies were being recovered.

"I have no doubt that you have a sense of shame, of regret," Mr Shepherd said.

Tyler was convicted and sentenced to 10 months' jail on each of the five charges.

But was immediately released to a $5000 good behaviour for the next four years in which time she must not re-offend.