Police focus on NDIS fraudsters as reports rise

Posted 1 year ago by Bianca Iovino

A new crackdown on providers taking advantage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been predicted to catch many fraudsters after a Queensland woman was jailed and another charged over alleged fraud offences.

Police investigators charged a 47-year-old woman from the Western Downs area with four counts of fraud. She is accused of swindling the NDIS out of more than $300,000 after allegedly lodging fraudulent claims for people from all over Australia.

The charges came after the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) was contacted by Dalby Police who had received complaints of an unregistered provider overcharging participants.

Another woman from the Bundaberg area was jailed in the same week for two-and-a-half years after she was found committing NDIS fraud of almost $100,000.

Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten said these charges were part of a wider crackdown on those who were rorting the scheme.

“Any type of deceptive or fraudulent behaviour that targets the safety net to support our fellow Australians with permanent and significant disability is shameless and despicable,” he said.

“These people pretend to support NDIS participants, but instead try to rip them off by blatantly overcharging and skimming extra money from their plans.”

This police crackdown is separate to the NDIS Fraud Taskforce established in 2018, a partnership between the NDIA, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Services Australia aimed to quash high risk and serious criminal activity targeting the NDIS.

Minister Shorten recently indicated that a police task force will be established in the coming weeks to find organised crime groups who are exploiting the NDIS system.

Professor Helen Dickinson, from The University of New South Wales, told the ABC that the issue of fraud in the NDIS has not received much attention in recent years.

“People with disability have been saying for a number of years that there are aspects of fraud…and they haven’t really been listened to,” she said.

Professor Dickinson believes the crackdown was likely to only scratch the surface of fraudulent claims for the NDIS.

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission encourages anyone with information about suspected fraud to contact its 1800 650 717 helpline.

The new police task force will have a main focus on identifying and investigating serious and organised fraud, referring cases to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, working with the AFP to conduct search warrants and arrests, and providing evidence to the court in criminal cases.

Cases handled by the NDIS Fraud Taskforce are expected to be punishable by imprisonment and involve collaboration between several parties, but fraud cases that are not considered serious and organised are referred to the NDIA for further investigation.

This recently announced taskforce comes weeks after Michael Phelan, Chief of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, advocated for a new taskforce to tackle NDIS fraud.

Minister Shorten also has a word of warning for those looking to defraud the NDIS, he said, “Let these activities speak for themselves: time is up and it’s only time until it is you who is caught, charged and sentenced.”