A public servant was “drowning in debt” when he created a fake identity through his job that he used to claim $3800 of Centrelink payments.
While 42-year-old Daniel Martin was handed a jail sentence for his crimes, it was fully suspended, allowing him to remain in the community.
The former Services Australia employee used his position to create the fictional identity in Centrelink’s systems, the ACT Magistrates Court heard.
He created a JobSeeker claim for the fake identity, entering notes into the system to give it a feeling of authenticity, and directed the payments for the identity to his son’s bank account.
He also asked a colleague at Services Australia to generate one JobSeeker payment for the identity on his behalf.
Martin had obtained six payments over March to April 2021 totalling $3828, however he only accessed about $900 worth of them.
His lawyer, Brandon Bodel from Andrew Byrnes Law Group, said the career public servant had suffered a significant fall from grace due to his offending, for which he had also been sacked.
But he said his client had been motivated by “need, not greed”. He was struggling financially, “drowning in debt”, and his wife wanted to return their family to Alice Springs due to the cost of living and housing in Canberra.
“It is safe to say he is still drowning in debt,” Mr Bodel said.
He also said his client had repaid the amount. However, while Commonwealth prosecutor Alicia Booth noted his debt had been repaid, she argued “offenders cannot buy their way out of severe punishment by repaying what they should have never received in the first place”.
She said it was “serious misconduct” and a breach of trust to Services Australia, noting fraud risks demonising welfare recipients.
Magistrate Ian Temby said it was clear Martin had been struggling financially and he understood the motivation for his offending, without finding this motivation mitigated it to any significant degree.
He said he accepted “he will not do this again”.
Martin pleaded guilty to two charges, which were engaging in dishonest conduct as a public official to obtain a benefit for himself as well as general dishonesty causing a loss.
He was sentenced to six months’ jail, but released immediately on a recognisance order that means he has to remain of good behaviour for 18 months. He must also do 60 hours of community service.
The court heard he now works as an employment consultant and wants to get a second job to help pay off his debts.
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