Media release: Fraudsters put on notice as Taskforce Integrity returns To Werribee
The Hon Michael Keenan MP
Welfare cheats are being warned they risk facing criminal charges if caught rorting the system during a crackdown on fraud in the Werribee region starting today.
Taskforce Integrity is a joint operation run by the Department of Human Services and Australian Federal Police which targets areas that are known hotspots for welfare non-compliance.
When the taskforce last visited Werribee in 2015, it identified more than 2600 individuals who had received almost $11 million worth benefits they were not entitled to.
The dollar figure was the largest from a single site in the taskforce’s three-year history and represents more than one quarter of the $40 million in debts that have been raised from a total of 19 operations conducted right across Australia.
Over the next few days, taskforce members will be maintaining a visible presence inside the Werribee and Sunshine service centres, as well as at the Pacific Werribee Shopping Centre where they will be available to take tip-offs from members of the public.
Tip-offs are an important source of information for investigators and it is not uncommon for fraudsters to be dobbed in by their own families or neighbours if they are doing the wrong thing.
Investigators will also be busy behind the scenes conducting snap audits on those who have a history of non-compliance, or whose case files have been flagged due to suspicious activity.
This operation is not about penalising people who make genuine errors. Its focus is on enforcing the law and targeting those who deliberately set out to commit welfare fraud.
Where there is evidence of criminal behaviour, matters are referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for potential prosecution and big fines or jail terms can apply.
While in Werribee this week, taskforce members will also be reminding people about their obligations to keep Centrelink informed of any changes to their personal circumstances that could affect their eligibility.
This includes things like changes to your income or your relationship status. I strongly advise anyone living in the Werribee region who has not been keeping Centrelink up to date to do so immediately, rather than waiting for any issues to be identified by the taskforce.
During the previous visit to Werribee, a person who had lied about their employment history was prosecuted after they were found to have fraudulently obtained more than $95,000 in income support payments over several years.
In another case, a person fraudulently claimed to be a carer in order to access more than $45,000 in Carer Payments.