Guilty plea over $12,000 Centrelink fraud

A Barrack Heights man ripped off taxpayers to the tune of almost $12,000, failing to declare his income to Centrelink for more than a year, a court heard yesterday.

Jayde Lee Booth was taking pain medication and drinking heavily when he lied about his earnings, triggering an $11,820.60 overpayment of his Newstart allowance, Wollongong Local Court was told.

The 34-year-old, who pleaded guilty to the fraud, failed to declare a cent of income from his employment between October 1, 2007, and October 27, 2008, despite raking in thousands of dollars from his job.

Due to the amount of Booth's income, he was only partially entitled to social security benefits for 22 weeks in that period and was not entitled to any payment for nearly 40 weeks.

On September 11, 2007, Booth completed a form for benefits, stating he was not currently working and understood he must declare any gross income to Centrelink.

He then started receiving the allowance intermittently between October 2007 and November 2008, completing 28 Centrelink forms where he answered "no" when asked if he had worked.

The court was told the answers were incorrect because Booth had earned income during that time, taking home between $370 and $1700 from his employment, but failing to disclose his gross earnings to Centrelink.

Booth was interviewed over the fraud in 2010 and admitted he was aware he had an obligation to tell Centrelink about his income.

He said he "didn't really know what was right and wrong" during that period because he was taking medication and drinking and conceded that he had not declared any income from his employment.

Defence solicitor Adam Bye told the court Booth had been under considerable stress at the time of the offences.

He said his client had undergone a knee reconstruction but had contracted a staph infection while in hospital.

Magistrate Michael Stoddart adjourned the matter to January 31.

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