A Taiwanese national was arrested in Sydney after allegedly stealing more than $130,000 in COVID-19 support payments from Centrelink.
The arrest of the 34-year-old male comes off the back of an investigation by Taskforce Integrity, a joint operation between Services Australia and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
The fraudsters are believed to have posed as an accounting agency on a messaging app and offered to submit claims on behalf of people who needed to access the payments, in exchange for their details and a fee. The man is also alleged to have stolen several identities and claimed payments in their names.
Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten said the arrest sounded a clear warning for anyone attempting to steal from vulnerable Australians.
“Make no mistake, fleecing people of welfare payments is not only despicable, it’s a sure ticket to prosecution,” Shorten said.
“Only scumbags steal from flood victims and taxpayers.
“This is taxpayer money designed to help Australians struggling with the impact of COVID-19. If you defraud the public purse you will be held to account.”
Shorten said Services Australia and the AFP had been working in lockstep with significant and sophisticated fraud detection.
“I congratulate these agencies for their robust defence of our public funding,” Shorten said.
“The Government is committed to combating the scourge of fraudulent activity directed at taxpayer money.“Federal agencies are continuing to tighten the net on fraudsters and will no doubt keep catching and preventing criminals stealing public funds.”