A Parkes woman submitted 38 fraudulent applications in under seven months to collect more than $73,000 in crisis payments from the government, a court heard.
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Cynthia Louise Petrie of Wentworth Street pleaded guilty in Parkes Local Court in December to eight counts of making a false or misleading statement for authority or benefit, four counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, two counts of possessing a prescribed restricted substance and one count of possessing ammunition without holding a licence.
According to police documents tendered in the court, all of the offences occurred between July 16, 2021 and February 22 last year.
During this time the 39-year-old submitted 10 false applications to Service NSW for a mouse plague rebate obtaining $3000 and 10 for a 2021 Covid 19 Micro-Business Support Grant receiving $66,000; nine applications for Covid 19 test and isolate payments collecting $1280; and two applications for a Business Fee Waiver for $3000.
She also unsuccessfully submitted three applications for COVID 19 Job Saver payments, two for a Small Business Hardship Grant, an application for a Flood Recovery Grant and one for an Accommodation Support Grant.
Petrie collected $73,280 in payments from Service NSW.
"If you were to walk down the street and ask every person you pass what should happen to people who do these sorts of offending, you know what the answer would be don't you?" Magistrate Brett Thomas said to Petrie in court.
"That they should go to jail."
Orange solicitor Andrew Rolfe, representing Petrie, said there was substantial offending and it involved a large amount of money, but asked the magistrate to consider her early plea.
Magistrate Thomas convicted Petrie, handing her an intensive corrections order with an aggregated sentence of two years and with supervision, as well as 450 hours of community service.
She was also convicted but with no penalty for the possession of substances and ammunition charges.
"I feel like [this is appropriate for you] which doesn't involve you going to jail," Magistrate Thomas said.
"I did consider longer (for the ICO) but that's probably sufficient."
According to the police documents tendered in the court, when she was submitting her Business Fee Waiver application, she used an ABN that had been cancelled between January 2009 and September 2021.
"The ABN was only reactivated five days prior to the submission of these applications," police said.
Police documents reveal on another occasion for the Small Business Hardship Grant applications, she declared she had 25 employees. For the accommodation grant she claimed 12 nights of accommodation had been cancelled and for the Flood Recovery Grant in February 2022, she declared that her application was made on behalf of a small business that suffered direct damage from a natural disaster.
On February 21 last year, police were granted a search warrant for Petrie's address where they found documents under her name and three others, and seized several mobile phones, tablets and storage devices, which were forensically examined.
Police documents also revealed officers found a pouch in a bedside table containing seven Valium (Diazepam) tablets in a box with no label and 11 amphetamine tablets in a clear resealable bag. And in a container near the table was one live, blue shotgun round which was seized.
In an interview Petrie admitted to police to making three legitimate applications for mouse plague rebates. Police said she denied submitting any more mouse plague applications after that and "acted shocked when she was shown the documentation attached to each application".
She also admitted she never attended a hospital for a COVID 19 test but had "taken her son once" and made the application on his behalf.
Police said Petrie had claimed "a friend offered to get her money" if she had an ABN for business grants, allowing the friend to submit applications with her identity and bank information. However she wouldn't identify the "friend".
Documents tendered to the court revealed Petrie also claimed she didn't have access to other people's accounts where some of the funds were paid into, but when officers pointed out to her that when money was paid into these accounts and was immediately transferred to accounts in her name, she had no explanation.
Police said while not all of the applications were successful, Petrie admitted to receiving the money from Service NSW that she was not eligible for and spending all of it on items such as takeaway food, clothes, drinks at the pub and a weekend away.
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