| 01.04,19. 04:27 AM |
The $250,000 welfare fraud hidden in a locked box
A 61-year-old south-west Sydney woman who had been claiming Centrelink benefits for 23 years was found with almost $250,000 in cash in a safe.
Last week Rebecca Assie, from Padstow, pleaded guilty to dealing with money reasonably believed to be the proceeds of crime, as well as to conspiring with four others to dishonestly cause a loss to a third person - in this case, Centrelink.
The guilty plea comes after Centrelink launched an investigation with the Australian Federal Police into a welfare fraud scheme that police say was organised and facilitated by Assie and her late husband, Jamal Elali.
Between February 8, 2013, and September 3, 2015, Assie conspired with her husband and four others to fraudulently obtain welfare payments from Centrelink, totalling $137,397, for her so-called "customers", in exchange for cash.
In the police statement of facts, Assie completed parts of Centrelink forms with and without her husband's help, that led to successful, false claims for the Carer's Allowance for her "customers".
She also lodged Centrelink forms and made medical appointments for these "customers", falsified Centrelink forms that had been completed by medical practitioners, paid medical practitioners in cash and had nine mobile phones and SIM cards in her possession.
With the help of Assie and her husband, one woman fraudulently received a total of $66,697 from Centrelink after falsely claiming she was providing care for her daughter.
In phone conversations intercepted by police, Assie asked Joulan Obeid to meet her in Chullora Marketplace with medical report forms that Ms Obeid needed to keep receiving her fraudulent Centrelink payment, as well as $1500 in cash.
Assie told Ms Obeid, "they all pay one kilo and half of grapes for it".
Another woman, Farah Dagher, also received over $66,647 in fraudulent Centrelink payments after receiving help from Assie and her husband. Ms Dagher paid the couple at least $8000 in cash for their part in the fraud, which was exchanged in the toilets at a McDonald's and at Chullora Marketplace.
In a separate instance, Assie introduced two women in a plot to have Sahar El Kaddour act as a carer for Raghda El Moubayed to receive both Centrelink’s Carer Payment and Carer Allowance.
In exchange for receiving the fraudulent payments, Ms El Kaddour would pay Ms El Moubayed $250 a fortnight. The pair were to pay Ms Assie $800 and $700 respectively.
However, Ms El Kaddour was only granted a Carer Allowance of $121 a fortnight and the deal fell apart, but not before Ms El Kaddour had received a total of $1051 from Centrelink.
Assie had been on Centrelink payments since 1990. Yet when the federal police raided her home over the suspected fraud in September 2013, they discovered $244,950 in cash inside a safe, stored in 25 bundles of $50 notes. In an agreed fact, that cash was suspected of being the proceeds of crime.
In the Downing Centre District Court on Wednesday, Judge Peter Maiden accepted Assie's guilty pleas to one count of conspiring to cause a loss to a third person, namely the Department of Human Services, and one count of dealing with money or property suspected to be the proceeds of crime valued at $100,000 or more.
Assie remains on bail, and will appear in court for sentencing in July.