Fraudster grandmother gets early prison release

A FRASER Coast grandmother who ripped off Centrelink to the tune of $40,000 has convinced a court to release her from jail early.

Sharnee Ann Rhodes, 45, was jailed in January after pleading guilty at the Hervey Bay Magistrates Court to four charges of defrauding the Commonwealth.

The court heard between August 2010 and September 2014 Rhodes was receiving unemployment benefits. She was required to inform Centrelink about any money she made from work while receiving the government payments.

But Rhodes "substantially under-declared her income" to get higher payments.

Over the period Rhodes, who has three children and nine grandchildren, earned a total of $98,685 from three jobs but under reported this income 69 times and falsely declared no income 21 times.

These false statements caused Centrelink to overpay her by $40,121.90. The Australian Tax Office detected the income discrepancies and Rhodes was charged.

The court heard Rhodes had a history of dishonesty offences. She was sentenced to one years jail and ordered to serve six months. She appealed the sentence in the district court claiming it was manifestly excessive.

She claimed she should have been ordered to serve one third of the year in jail instead of half because of her guilty plea - the standard discount when pleading guilty. She has served 101 days behind bars.

In a court judgment published on Monday, Judge Paul Smith agreed the sentencing magistrate made some errors in Rhodes's case. He found Rhodes should have been released after serving three or four months in jail, not six.

"In my view, there was no other penalty aside from actual imprisonment appropriate in light of the amounts involved, the previous convictions and the nature of the offending," he said.

"But it seems to me, in light of the pleas of guilty, the saving of the cost of a trial and the remorse shown by the pleas, there was no reason to depart from imposing release at about the one-third mark."

Judge Smith ordered Rhodes be released from prison on a $1000 good behaviour bond. He ordered she repay all the outstanding debt.


Topics:  appeal centrelink fraud jail

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