Woman jailed over KI farm fraud

A WOMAN jailed for defrauding a King Island abattoir of $500,000 in the `90s has been imprisoned again after admitting to dishonestly obtaining almost $200,000 from the Commonwealth.
Nanjing Night Net

In the Supreme Court in Burnie, Justice Peter Evans yesterday sentenced Lynette Anne Murray to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Murray, 48, had earlier pleaded guilty to 33 counts of obtaining property by deception.The charges related to dishonestly obtaining $194,959.80 through fraudulent claims made while undertaking bookkeeping duties for a King Island dairy farmer.

In 1997, Murray was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail for crimes committed between August 1993 and April 1995 while working at the abattoir.

She served half of the sentence before being released.

Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions Ian Arendt told the court that between March 29, 2005, and July 19, 2006, Murray Leg 1dishonestly obtained rebates through the Energy Grants Credit Scheme (EGCS).

Under the scheme, rebates are available to subsidise the cost of diesel fuel used in the running of a business.

The dairy farmer employed Murray to take care of his bookkeeping, which included making claims under the EGCS through the Australian Tax Office.

With the dairy farmer busy operating the farm, he handed Murray access to his bank accounts and ATO information.

The court heard that without the farmer’s knowledge, Murray changed the destination for these payments to her own personal bank account.

The dairy farmer did not pick up on the redirected payments as he had handed all administrative control to Murray.

During the 16-month period Murray claimed rebates for amounts of fuel significantly over and above the amounts actually used by the dairy farmer, the court was told.

Mr Arendt said an adjustment to the EGCS meant paper claims no longer had to be lodged, and they could instead be claimed using a telephone service.

He said the scheme depended on trust and honesty and no steps were taken to check accuracy, other than the fact claimants are expected to file five years of documentation in the case of an audit.

An ATO audit into the business began in February 2008.

The court heard that during the audit when Murray was interviewed by ATO investigators in December 2009, she failed to provide documentation to justify fuel claims she had made.

Mr Arendt said upon inspection of Murray’s bank accounts, there was no evidence of a gambling problem, but that the money had seemingly been used for personal expenses.

He said the Commonwealth has not received any repayments.

Natalie Everett, for Murray, argued her client had been given permission from the dairy farmer to redirect the payment to her own account.

However, she did not dispute the amounts claimed by Murray were inaccurate.

Justice Evans acknowledged the chaotic financial position experienced by the farm, but said it could not justify the crimes committed.

Murray will be eligible for release after serving two years of the sentence.

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