Cairns woman jailed for claiming $40,000 from disaster relief funds
ONE of the harshest penalties for disaster fund fraud in Australian history has been handed down in Cairns after a woman pleaded guilty to rorting almost $40,000 from relief initiatives intended for flood and bushfire victims.
Amber Sarah Mallie will serve seven months of her two-and-a-half year sentence behind bars after she was convicted yesterday on 24 charges.
The charges related to the Federal disaster fund and the Queensland Premier’s Relief Appeal.
It comes after former Cairns man Ruel Neil Patrick Fogarty was handed the same jail term in January last year for scamming $20,000 from the federal fund, which was then the toughest sentence for such a crime in Australian history.
Mallie, who obtained $17,000 from the federal fund through Centrelink and $21,000 from the premier’s appeal to feed her drug and alcohol addictions, sobbed as she was led to the Cairns watch-house after sentencing.
The 27-year-old mother-of-two pleaded guilty to the charges, which included obtaining a financial advantage through dishonesty and fraud, on the eve of what was supposed to be a five-day trial in the Cairns District Court.
Judge Bill Everson said she had previously "not shown any remorse" for using the names of almost 20 friends and family members without their consent to obtain the payments in the wake of tropical cyclone Ellie in January 2009. Both funds required no identification checks and were designed for the quick and easy distribution of money to those who needed it the most.
The federal initiative was set up through Centrelink to benefit victims of the Queensland floods and Victorian bushfires, while the premier’s fund was set up to take donations from the public specifically for flood-affected people.
"The offence was particularly heinous because you abused the trust of the state and people who had donated to a charity for the relief of victims in a national disaster," Judge
But he noted Mallie had redeemed herself since the offences, which her barrister said happened during a "very dark period in her life", by obtaining a job and receiving treatment for her addictions and bi-polar disorder.
Unlike Fogarty, Mallie will not be forced to pay the money back upon her release, with Judge Everson ruling she did not have the financial capacity to do so.
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Jail: A Cairns woman will serve seven months of a two-and-a-half year sentence for fraudulently claiming about $40,000 in disaster relief payments.