No jail for mum over 2011 flood grants fraud

A ONE Mile mother who fraudulently claimed more than $10,000 in flood assistance funding has received a suspended jail sentence.

Rochelle Gervase Andrews, 23, made three claims for Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal Emergency Assistance Grants for the 2010-11 floods.

Two were false.

She fronted Gympie Magistrates Court to plead guilty to the two fraud charges on Monday after failing to appear in Ipswich Magistrates Court on July 1.

Andrews was caught out while applying for her third round of funding - a claim of $6000 for damage to her Bundamba home.

Recipients of the grants were entitled to only one payment for their primary address and applicants were required to declare they had not previously applied for or received one of the grants to assist in their recovery from the "disaster".

The mother-of-three received a payment of $850 soon after the floods on January 23, 2011 for loss of power at the home.

She applied for a second and third payment while attending a flood recovery centre at Bundamba TAFE on February 10, 2011 to fill out claim application forms.

As a result received a second payment of $4405 to assist with house and contents damage.

She used the money to buy a car for her young family.

The court heard the claim was fraudulent because Andrews incorrectly supplied her boyfriend's house address at Gailes as her primary residence.

The court heard the defendant never lived at the Gailes address, however Andrews owned belongings stored at the address.

The third claim of $6000, claimed for her home at Bundamba, was declined when it was brought to the funding agency's attention that the mother had claimed funding for two primary residencies and she had already received an initial payment of $850 for the Bundamba home.

The defence told the court Andrews had been given incorrect advice at the TAFE regarding a claim for her belongings at the Gailes house and that the claims were not deliberately dishonest.

The prosecution described the actions as an "abuse of trust", saying dishonesty offences such as Andrews' warranted prison sentences.

She convicted of dishonestly gaining $4405 and sentenced to two months in jail, suspended for 18 months.

Andrews also must serve 100 hours of community service after she was convicted of attempting to dishonestly gain $6000.

She was further sentenced to 14 days in jail, suspended for six months for failing to appear in court in July, which the defence said was because of family problems and the event of Andrews moving house to Gympie.

She was ordered to pay $4405 restitution for the fraudulently claimed funding.

No action was taken on the initial assistance payment of $850.

Gympie Times

Topics:  flood assistance fraud gympie magistrates court

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