Two women could face 10 years in jail over the alleged fraudulent claiming of bushfire and coronavirus welfare assistance.
The two Port Macquarie women, aged 27 and 24, were arrested after being identified by Services Australia for allegedly making suspicious claims, which it passed on to the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police Force.
The women are alleged to have assumed 25 identities to try to claim more than $27,000 in welfare payments they were not entitled to, of which more than $10,000 was paid.
These include 25 fraudulent claims for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment for last summer's bushfires and one claim for the JobSeeker payments - a supplement for those adversely impacted by COVID-19.
"Stealing from the welfare system is not a victimless crime and our government has zero tolerance for those who seek to do so," Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement on Sunday.
"The AFP and Services Australia have ramped up their efforts to make sure we come down heavily on people who seek to rip off taxpayer money that was intended to support people whose lives have been turned upside down by the devastating bushfires or COVID-19."
Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said Services Australia's sophisticated fraud detection program means anyone planning to defraud the system should think again.
"Services Australia is doing everything it can to support Australians in need during the coronavirus pandemic but staff also are keeping a watchful eye out for unscrupulous people who try to take an unfair advantage," Mr Robert said.
The women were arrested at their homes on Thursday, and have each been charged with eight counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, contrary to Commonwealth legislation.
This offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Both women were granted bail on the Commonwealth charges and are next scheduled to appear before Port Macquarie Local Court on July 22, 2020.
Australian Associated Press