Melka Jane Krunes rorted more than $26,000 from Centrelink.
Melka Jane Krunes rorted more than $26,000 from Centrelink.

Queensland mum fleeces Centrelink $26k

A woman who rorted more than $26,000 from Centrelink sobbed in the arms of her mother before being taken away to jail by police.

Mount Louisa mum Melka Jane Krunes, 35, fraudulently received $26,018 from Centrelink in the form of parental and Newstart payments over a nearly seven-year period.

The court heard in 2011, Krunes was two years into a three-year good behaviour bond for scamming social security benefits she was not entitled to, when she began to swindle money from Centrelink again until 2017.

Krunes was paid $70,256 in benefits during that period after making false reports to Centrelink on 156 occasions, and on 16 of those, declaring she had no income at all.

The court heard Krunes was working throughout the time she was claiming benefits and had at least four different employers during her offending.

The mother also stated to the Department of Human Services she knew the difference between gross and net income as well as how to properly declare her financial situation.

The offending was detected by data match at the Australian Taxation Office on May 2, 2016, with Krunes declining to participate in a recorded interview as part of their investigation in 2018.

"Offences of this nature are serious, prevalent and relatively easy to commit. The social security system relies upon the honesty of recipients because a stricter scheme … would be enormously expensive and would delay payments to genuine applicants," Federal prosecutor Catherine Ferguson told the Townsville Magistrates Court yesterday.

Defence lawyer Phil Rennick said his client had repaid the debt in full and was the primary carer for her daughter and her mother who suffers from chronic depression.

Mr Rennick said a jail term would severely impact upon Krunes' mother and daughter, as well as jeopardise her ability to make her mortgage repayments and keep her employment.

Krunes pleaded guilty to three fraud charges when she faced Townsville Magistrates Court.

Magistrate Viviana Keegan said the community needed to be warned of the harsh punishment they would face if they committed similar offending.

"You're stealing from every taxpayer in the country and diverting resources away from people that genuinely need them," Ms Keegan said.

Krunes was sentenced to nine months jail, and will be released after serving three months. She will need to repay $2000 and be of good behaviour for three years.