SYDNEY — Six people have been charged with being part of a sophisticated western Sydney crime syndicate that has defrauded millions of dollars from the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The Australian Federal Police says the syndicate has fraudulently claimed more than AUD 10 million ($7.73 million) since 2017 in National Disability Insurance Scheme funding and investigations are continuing into the scale and total value of the scam.
In December, the Australian Federal Police, in partnership with the National Disability Insurance Agency, AUSTRAC (Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre) and Services Australia, launched Operation Pegasus to investigate several suspected fraudulent National Disability Insurance Scheme providers in western Sydney.
With the help of specialist financial intelligence provided by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, police identified a syndicate using three companies to defraud the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The Australian Federal Police says the syndicate:
* obtained National Disability Insurance Scheme funding for people who do not have a genuine disability
* skimmed National Disability Insurance Scheme funding from genuine National Disability Insurance Scheme participants without their knowledge
* conspired with National Disability Insurance Scheme participants or their families or nominees and other sub-contracted National Disability Insurance Scheme service providers to obtain National Disability Insurance Scheme funds that they are not entitled to receive;
* conspired with National Disability Insurance Scheme participants or their families or nominees to monetarism their genuine disability
* and over-claimed for services provided to genuine National Disability Insurance Scheme participants.
Once the syndicate received the payments from the National Disability Insurance Scheme claims, a kickback went back into the pockets of the company operators.
On April 20, Australian Federal Police officers raided 11 properties in the Sydney suburbs of Lidcombe, Bass Hill, Monterey, Merrylands, Granville, South Granville, Bankstown, Ryde, and the Central Business District.
Police seized eight kilograms of gold bullion worth about AUD 600,000 ($463,953) as well as about AUD 600,000 ($463,953) in cash, and AUD 635,176 ($491,165) in crypto currency.
The raids also netted a BMW M3, Audi Q7, and Porsche Cayenne with a combined value of AUD 250,000 ($193,330) as well as “a significant amount of jewelry” and “a small amount of white powder suspected to be border-controlled drugs”.
The Australian Federal Police says they seized more than AUD 2 million ($1.54 million) in suspected tainted assets, excluding the cash and funds from the syndicate members’ bank accounts.
Four men and one woman were arrested and were refused bail before appearing in Central Local Court on April 21.
A 37-year-old French man from Ryde was also identified as an alleged associate of the syndicate and charged with separate fraud offenses to a value of AUD 31,798 ($24,594.). He was given police bail and is expected to appear before the court at a later date.
Australian Federal Police Commander Kirsty Schofield said investigations are ongoing, with further arrests anticipated.
“Millions of dollars have allegedly been stolen by this criminal syndicate,” she said. “Funds that have allegedly been spent on flashy vehicles when they could have been redirected to help other Scheme participants, like your mother, grandfather, sister or neighbor.
National Disability Insurance Agency Chief Risk Officer Mel Woodburn said the agency was committed to preventing and detecting fraud against the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“Fraud is a crime, and the agency will not tolerate the misuse of funds. One dollar fraudulently obtained is one dollar that isn’t received by those for whom it was intended — our participants,” she said.
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Praveen Pramod Tewari)
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