Stupid way Centrelink cheat came undone
A woman who ripped off Centrelink by claiming she was single was caught after she went on a media circuit talking about her miracle conception with her partner.
Kimberley Castles cried out "what about my kids" as she was sentenced to a minimum of two years in prison by the County Court of Victoria on Monday.
The 55-year-old pocketed more than $70,000 from the taxpayer she was not entitled to over six years, by claiming the single benefit for the disability support pension, the carer's payment and the single parent payment.
But the court heard there was a pile of evidence she was still in a relationship - including joint interviews on national television and in a national magazine with her partner, Greg Castles.
The "brazen and audacious" rort was a "clear example of greed, not need", Judge Trevor Wraight said on Monday.
In late 2016 Kim and Greg Castles appeared on Channel 9's 60 Minutes program and in Women's Day to talk about her conception using IVF at the age of 51.
The couple appeared in loved-up photos and footage showcasing Castles' heavily pregnant belly and cradling their newborn baby after the miracle IVF success.
She was paid $5000 for the 60 Minutes interview and $4,600 for the Women's Day interview, Judge Wraight said.
At the same time, Castles was claiming to Centrelink she was single and banking the higher payment.
Mr Castles was earning between $1,479 and $1,882 a fortnight throughout the offending, the court heard.
Kim and Greg Castles also reported living at the same address; regularly took holidays together; had five joint home loan accounts, three joint bank accounts, and two joint personal loans.
They also had joint car insurance and a joint financial interest in four properties - all while Castles was telling Centrelink she was single, Judge Wraight said.
"By December 5, 2016, your offending was detected by way of a tip-off," he said.
"Social security frauds are not victimless crimes."
He said she did not think about the "pressure it places on the social security system, which is designed for people in need."
Judge Wraight said Castles had also been jailed for 18 months in 2009 for Centrelink fraud.
She was on a two-year good behaviour agreement, called a recognisance release order, when she began defrauding Centrelink again.
He said she signed the form falsely claiming her relationship had ended in November 2010 while she was still behind bars for her first stint.
Judge Wraight said she had been assessed as having "at best, fair" prospects of rehabilitation when she was originally sentenced in 2009.
"Evidently, that was an optimistic prediction," he said.
Castles' lawyers told the court her relationship was dysfunctional and violent.
They said Greg Castles had a gambling problem that would lead him to take money from her.
But Judge Wraight said the court had "not been provided with evidence to support this claim".
Castles pleaded guilty to three counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage from a Commonwealth entity and one count of breaching a recognisance release order.
She was sentenced to two years' prison followed by a two-and-a-half-year recognisance release order.
Originally published as Stupid way Centrelink cheat came undone