Gladstone mum jailed for $35K Centrelink fraud
A GLADSTONE mother who claimed more than $35,000 in Centrelink benefits she wasn't entitled to over three years has been jailed.
Sarsha-Maree Dunlop will spend the next two months behind bars after she pleaded guilty to one count of obtain financial advantage for self in Gladstone Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
The Commonwealth Prosecutor told the court Dunlop's offending occurred between November 2014 and June 2018.
Dunlop had been receiving benefits for which she was required to report any income changes to the department every fortnight.
The court was told during the period of offending Dunlop was working three jobs.
Dunlop failed to declare her income on 56 occasions and made 25 incorrect declarations - stating she earned less than what she had.
The court was told Dunlop received $44,612.70 in benefits. Dunlop was overpaid $35,442.23.
The court was told based on her undeclared earnings she was only entitled to about $9170.44.
Authorities discovered Dunlop's dishonesty in January 2018 and advised her of the discovery in June.
Two months later Dunlop participated in an interview and admitted her offending.
The court was told Dunlop had a history of stealing, fraud and dishonesty offending.
At the time of this offending she was on a suspended jail sentence for like offending.
Defence lawyer Cassandra Ditchfield said Dunlop struggled with alcohol abuse following the traumatic loss of a family member and a bad relationship.
"She has had one disaster after another in her life," Ms Ditchfield said.
Ms Ditchfield said Dunlop had recently gotten back on her feet and secured a solid cleaning job.
Ms Ditchfield said Dunlop had been offered a manger position with the company however, the offer would not stand if Dunlop was sent to prison.
Ms Ditchfield said her client was a mother and cared for her seriously-ill grandmother.
Magistrate Dennis Kinsella noted Dunlop had suffered a traumatic past and also battled mental health and other illnesses.
Mr Kinsella said the fraud was "not an example of simply greed" and there was an "element of need" in Dunlop's offending.
Dunlop was sentenced to 12 months jail, to be released after serving two months in prison.
She was also placed on an 18 month good behaviour bond and probation order.
Dunlop was ordered to pay $35,442.23 in repayment to the department.