This is a joint media release from the Australian Federal Police, Department of Human Services and The National Disability Insurance Agency.
A joint agency investigation into an organised criminal syndicate suspected of defrauding the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) of millions of dollars has today resulted in the arrest of five people in western Sydney.
Today’s arrests are the result of a six-month investigation by the NDIS Fraud Taskforce – comprising members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and the Department of Human Services (DHS). This investigation was supported by the AFP hosted Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.
All five were arrested at four residences in the western Sydney suburbs of Lurnea and Liverpool (two locations) early this morning. They are expected to be charged with a range of fraud and proceeds of crime offences, and likely to appear before Sydney Central Local Court this afternoon. A sixth person will be issued a summons to appear before court to answer related charged at a later date.
Taskforce investigators will allege in court that three registered NDIS providers controlled and exploited by those arrested today fraudulently claimed more than $1.1 million in NDIS payments from more than 70 people on disability plans, or those managing their affairs.
Investigations into the true scale of this fraud are continuing, with more than 100 other potential victims identified through the three entities controlled by this syndicate – Universal Group Australia Pty Ltd, Reliance Disability Services and United Mission.
The three entities are believed to have received more than $2.6 million in NDIS payments since December 2017. Further enquiries are required to determine whether these payments are legitimate or fraudulent.
It is also suspected that syndicate members applied to register another four entities as NDIS providers to claim payments.
The AFP also seized three vehicles – a Porsche Cayenne, an Audi A3 and Mercedes E63 – suspected of being purchased with funds fraudulently obtained by syndicate members.
AFP Acting Commander Mark McIntyre, Manager Criminal Assets and Fraud and Anti-Corruption, and said police were committed to targeting those deliberately exploiting the Australian community.
“This is an organised criminal activity preying on those that society has chosen to help– it took money directly out of the pockets of NDIS participants, reducing their ability to obtain crucial assistance and services to help them lead their lives,” he said.
“Unfortunately this is not an isolated case, and we will continue to work with our taskforce partners to identify those preying on our needy and bring them to account for their selfish and despicable actions.”
Acting CEO of the NDIA, Vicki Rundle, said the NDIS Fraud Taskforce was a partnership with a focus on high-risk and serious criminal activity targeting the NDIS.
“The NDIA is committed to working with families impacted by alleged fraud and ensuring they have their funds reinstated in their plans where appropriate,” she said.
“We want to make it clear that fraud of the NDIS will not be tolerated. The NDIA takes the matter of fraud very seriously and will continue to invest in our capability to continue to identify attempts to defraud the scheme”.
The Department of Human Services also has an important role in the NDIS Fraud Taskforce, providing expert capability to detect and investigate organised criminal networks that seek to take advantage of vulnerable members of the community.
A 40-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman from Lurnea were both charged with Obtaining a gain contrary to section 135.(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), and Dealing with property reasonably suspected to proceeds of crime contrary to section 400.9(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
The maximum penalties for these offences are 10 years and three years imprisonment, respectively.
A 27-year-old man, 30-year-old man and 27-year-old woman – all from Liverpool – were each charged with Dealing with property reasonably suspected to proceeds of crime contrary to section 400.9(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The maximum penalty for this offence is three years imprisonment.
A 22-year-old woman will be issued a court attendance notice relating to an allegation of providing false or misleading information contrary to section 137.1 (1)(c)(i) of the Criminal Code (Cth). The maximum penalty for this offence is 12 months imprisonment.
Anyone with information about suspected fraud involving the NDIS should contact the Fraud Hotline on 1800 650 717.