Dad sets 'poor example' with welfare fraud

A Wollongong magistrate has slammed a Barrack Heights father who ripped off taxpayers to the tune of almost $12,000, telling him he had set a ‘‘poor example’’ for his children.

Jayde Lee Booth failed to declare a cent of his income to Centrelink for more than a year, despite raking in thousands of dollars from his employment, Wollongong Local Court heard yesterday.

Sentencing the 34-year-old, Magistrate Michael Stoddart said the courts had repeatedly endorsed jail terms for social security fraud.

‘‘You received a large amount of money you weren’t entitled to ... had you had any other matters of dishonesty on your record, [you] would be facing a custodial sentence today,’’ he told Booth.

‘‘As a father, you want to bring up your children as best you can, to be honest citizens ... you have set a poor example.’’

Booth, who pleaded guilty to the fraud, lied about his earnings between October 1, 2007, and October 27, 2008, triggering an $11,820.60 overpayment of his Newstart allowance.

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.

Booth was interviewed over the fraud 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 but conceded he had not declared any income from his employment.

Solicitor Adam Bye, acting for Booth, told the court his client accepted he had done the wrong thing and had shown considerable remorse for his behaviour.

Mr Bye said the offences had occurred during a tumultuous time in Booth’s life when he was undergoing surgery, self-medicating with alcohol and suffering depression from a relationship breakdown and loss of his home.

The court heard the fraud was out of character and Booth had made significant efforts to correct it, repaying $6220 to Centrelink.

Magistrate Stoddart ordered Booth to repay the remaining $5600 to the Commonwealth, along with an additional $4000 penalty.

Booth was also placed on a two-year good behaviour bond and ordered to provide his fingerprints to police.