Mum jailed for $70k C'link fraud

FOR almost six years, married Rockhampton mum Debra Helen Rule told Centrelink she was a single parent and received almost $70,000 for her lies.

Rule was jailed on Friday for 2½ years for the scam after Christmas cards and family overseas holidays proved she was lying.

Rule was married and had two children when she started receiving single parent benefits on June 18, 2001.

All she had to do was lodge a claim saying she was “separated” and she qualified for the single parent scheme. Her children are aged 11 and 17.

Rule wasn’t separated; she was living with her husband in a North Rockhampton home the couple bought together in late-2000.

Her husband, Jeffrey Rule, was employed full-time as a mine worker for Xstrata and during the six years his wife scammed Centrelink, Mr Rule earned more than $660,000 before tax.

Rule didn’t declare any of her husband’s income to Centrelink.

The fraudster’s home was investigated on April 17, 2007, after information from the Australian Taxation Office.

Detectives seized photos and other items that proved she wasn’t separated from her husband.

Christmas, Easter and birthday cards from family and friends acknowledged the relationship.

The couple shared a bedroom and living space and photos showed they had been travelled overseas together in January 2007.

Rule pleaded guilty in Rockhampton District Court on Friday to obtaining financial advantage by deception.

The Morning Bulletin’s attempts to contact Rule’s defence solicitor yesterday were unsuccessful.

Commonwealth prosecutor Laura Manville said Rule had plenty of opportunities to tell Centrelink the truth.

Anyone who receives benefits from Centrelink is sent letters reminding them to update the department within 14 days of any personal circumstances changing.

Ms Manville told the court Rule was sent 22 notices and not once did she respond to any of them.

Ms Manville said that from 2005 to 2007, Rule had to call Centrelink to report her income every fortnight.

During that period the voice recording system asked 31 times if Rule wanted to change any personal circumstances and not once did she admit she was living with her husband.

During a “profiling interview” at Centrelink in April 2005, Rule told officers she was “separated” from her husband.

The deception was picked up in files lodged with the ATO where Rule listed Mr Rule as her “spouse” and as the beneficiary of her superannuation fund.

The couple pooled finances and shared financial and household responsibilities.

Ms Manville said they shared a strong financial commitment and a strong social relationship.

As part of Centrelink’s investigation, Rule was invited to a formal interview but she declined.

In total she received $69,271.28 in social security payments, none of which she was entitled to.

When Rule was caught, she was able to pay back the entire amount in cash on January 18, 2007.

Judge Grant Britton ordered Rule’s prison term to be suspended after five months.

She will have to pay a $1000 security bond if she reoffends.

The couple’s 23rd wedding anniversary on April 4 next year will be one to celebrate – it’s also the day Rule is due to be released.

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