7 December 2021

Army major Travis Stephens admits he defrauded over $90,000 from Defence

| Albert McKnight
Travis David Morgan Stephens

Former Army major Travis David Morgan Stephens leaves court after pleading guilty to dishonesty charges on Wednesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A former Army major defrauded more than $90,000 from the Department of Defence when claiming rent allowance for a property he owned.

Travis David Morgan Stephens appeared in the ACT Supreme Court last week, pleading guilty to dishonestly causing a loss and obtaining a financial advantage by deception from the department.

According to agreed court documents, he enlisted as a soldier in the Army in 2000, was commissioned as an officer in 2005 and eventually achieved the rank of major in 2017.

Rent allowance can be paid to defence force members who rent near where they are posted, but they are not allowed to have the subsidy if they own a home near the location.

In 2011, Stephens received rent allowance for an apartment he rented in Kingston when he offered a deposit to buy another home.

The settlement was delayed due to financing difficulties, but he and his co-accused managed to get a joint loan and the purchase was settled with them listed as joint owners.

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“My name shouldn’t be a massive issue – we wanted it left off as it potentially restricts my Rent entitlements from defence and therefore decreases the level of repayments we’ll be making,” he told his finance broker during the process.

He referred to himself as an owner of the property numerous times, including in 2012 when he contacted family friends asking for advice on buying a yacht.

“The hard part is getting a longer duration loan than some are able/willing to provide. [The] last-ditch option is to refinance/sell my Canberra place but as of January it’s positively geared so I’d like to avoid that if possible,” he said.

During the process of buying the property, Stephens claimed he had been evicted from the apartment he was renting and applied for relocation assistance to help him move.

After falsely claiming he had been evicted, the Department of Defence paid $4400 to help with his move to the new property, a payment he wasn’t eligible for.

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Between 2011 and 2018, Stephens successfully claimed rent allowance for the new property, each time falsely saying he was renting the place from the co-accused and that he did not own a property in his posting location. These payments totalled $91,700.

An anonymous tip-off led to him being investigated. He was administratively discharged from the ADF in December 2019.

On Wednesday, the Crown prosecutor said charges against the co-accused were still proceeding.

Justice Michael Elkaim ordered a pre-sentence report, listed Stephens’ case back before the court to work out a sentencing date and continued his bail.

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