Mum’s $200,000 dead baby Centrelink rort
A Sydney woman who claimed more than $200,000 in Centrelink payments to care for her child - despite the baby girl having died 15 years earlier - appeared distressed during a court appearance today.
Alison Christie Mains, 41, awaited sentencing today at Sydney's Downing Centre District Court on Wednesday on three charges of obtain a financial advantage by deception and a further three counts of defraud the Commonwealth.
She rorted public coffers out of $209,114 for her child, Tyler Marie, from 1988 until 2013. However, the severely disabled little girl had died just a five months after she was born in August 1998.
Nonetheless, Ms Mains claimed Child Carer Allowance, Family Tax Benefit and Parenting Payment Single for years afterwards.
Her lawyer argued that his client's "limited cognitive ability" meant she actually failed to apply for welfare payments she was entitled to, that could have added up to almost as much as those she falsely claimed for. Yet, she was able to contact Centrelink on multiple occasions to ask for advance payments for her child's care - years after the child had passed.
Ms Mains arrived in court head to toe in black - with black leggings, T-shirt, shoes and with a black latex glove covering one hand.
At several points she closed her eyes and breathed loudly and repetitively, rocking back and forth, as her solicitor spoke on her behalf to Judge Nicole Noman SC.
Ms Mains made her first welfare claim in October 1998 when she said her child was still alive and well.
She told Centrelink she was caring for her disabled daughter who was born with a serious neurological condition. However, her child had passed away more than a month previously.
Defence counsel Martin Bernhaut said his client knew what she had done was wrong.
"Ms Mains accepts that she received a range of payments relating to deceased child during a period when she was not entitled too.
"She absolutely accepts that and she did make false representations to Centrelink that her child was alive and in her care and had various disabilities that required additional care."
However, her solicitor added, the Judge should take into account that her daughter, "died in horrific, tragic, circumstances aged five months".
The trauma of this together with her inability to read and write meant she was "never going to be able to work due to her range of conditions."
He noted that at one point her distress over her child dying was so strong that she began "dressing up a doll and pretending it was her daughter".
Mr Bernhaut said her "limited cognitive ability" meant she had been entitled to a range of other welfare payments which she didn't claim.
Ms Mains' lawyer argued she potentially could have received around $69,696 of Newstart allowance during the same period or nearly $186,875 in disability support.
The possible - but never claimed for - disability support payments would have added up to just $20,000 less than she obtained for the care of her dead daughter.
Ms Mains had a range of issues that included alcohol abuse and had spent several months in a residential hospital program to detox which her counsel asked to be taken into account in terms of sentencing.
Mr Bernhaut said his client had already paid back around $25,000 of the funds.
The sentencing was adjourned until 18 September.