Centrelink Contributed

Fraudster ordered to pay

A MAGISTRATE has slammed a Brooms Head man who defrauded Centrelink of more than $31,000, by under-reporting his income, saying the man's record "had dishonesty written all over it".

Stephen Woods, 55, was sentenced to 200 hours community service, and ordered to pay back $31,294, after he pleaded guilty to two counts of engaging in conduct to obtain a financial advantage from a Commonwealth entity.

According to an investigation conducted by the Department of Human Services, from July 12, 2011, to January 13, 2012, and from June 12, 2012, and October 1, 2014, Woods failed to correctly declare his income from working as a teaching assistant with the Depart- ment of Education, and continued to claim Newstart Allowance payments for which he was not eligible.

In court documents, the offending was detected by a data match conducted by the Australian Taxation Office on October 2, 2014.

In Grafton Local Court yesterday, Woods's solicitor Mark Savic said at the time of the offence Woods was in a difficult financial position.

"(Woods) was on social security benefits at the time when he went through a break-up with his partner, and that emotional turmoil was combined with his son living with him on a full-time basis, which increased my client's financial burden," Mr Savic said.

He said Woods acknowledged he did not provide Centrelink with the correct information regarding his employment as a mentor and guidance counsellor for a Clarence Valley high school.

Magistrate Robyn Denes said Woods's actions were not positive for someone working as a mentor.

"It's one thing to call yourself a mentor, but it's another thing to be a mentor," she said.

In her sentencing, Magistrate Denes took into account Woods's guilty plea at the earliest opportunity, and noted that while the fraud was a serious matter, a community service order was the best way to repay the community.

In 2002 Woods was found guilty of passing valueless cheques, and in 2003 of obtaining money by deception.

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