17 August 2023

Mum was army major son's 'subordinate' when defrauding Department of Defence

| Albert McKnight
woman leaving court

Ilze Stephens, 71, was convicted and sentenced on Wednesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A mother smiled and hugged her defence barrister after she was spared being sent to jail for helping her former army major son defraud the Department of Defence.

Last December, Ilze Stephens’ son Travis David Morgan Stephens was sentenced to 16 months behind bars, to be suspended and replaced with a two-year good behaviour order after he served four months for his offences.

He had fraudulently claimed more than $90,000 in rental allowance from the Department of Defence.

His 71-year-old mother appeared in the ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday (16 August) to be sentenced for her role in helping him with the scheme.

She and her son had jointly bought a property in Kingston in 2011 when he was a member of the Australian Defence Force, court documents say.

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Between 2011 and 2018, Stephens made seven false statements claiming that she was the owner of the property as well as that her son was her tenant and was paying her rent each week.

Her son submitted these false statements to Defence Housing Australia as part of his applications for rent allowance.

By the time of his sentencing, all the money had been paid back.

man leaving court

Former army major Travis Stephens (pictured leaving court on a previous occasion) has already been sentenced for defrauding the Department of Defence. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Ilze Stephens’ defence barrister, Jason Moffett, said it was a unique case as his client was a 71-year-old grandmother who had no criminal antecedents and he described these offences as being out of character.

He said she had worked as a nurse for over 30 years and had made full admissions to her employer.

“This is not a lady who you would expect to see back before your honour,” Mr Moffett said.

Justice David Mossop said her offending was relatively unsophisticated, but committed in the context of her son getting significant financial benefits from the Commonwealth.

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He said she failed to recognise the gravity and significance of the documents she was signing.

“She clearly had a subordinate role in the overall scheme of the offending,” he said.

Ilze Stephens, who lives in Croydon Hills in Victoria, pleaded guilty to four counts of making a false or misleading statement in an application.

She was convicted and sentenced to a 12-month recognisance order, which requires her to be of good behaviour for that time, and fined $2000.

Her son had pleaded guilty to charges of dishonestly causing a loss and obtaining a financial advantage by deception.

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