Single mum faces sack after Centrelink fraud

A SINGLE mother who claimed more than $17,000 in unentitled Centrelink benefits stands to lose her job if formally convicted for fraud, a court has heard.

Lennox Head woman Julieanne Margaret Heneghan, 53, faced Lismore Local Court on Monday after pleading guilty to dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage from the Commonwealth.

A Commonwealth prosecutor told the court Heneghan had received about $23,000 in welfare benefits over a three and a half year period when she was only entitled to about $6000.

The court heard that the court's "starting point" for sentencing of social security fraud was a custodial jail sentence.

However, Heneghan's solicitor John Weller argued there were "extenuating circumstances" to the offence, and his client should have no conviction recorded against her name.

The court heard Heneghan had become the sole parent to her two children in 2001 after a domestic violence relationship in which she was severely assaulted.

He said one of her children had Type 1 diabetes, while the other had been diagnosed with ADHD, and Heneghan's life revolved around giving "absolutely 100 per cent attention to these two young boys".

Mr Weller said his client had "lived a life of part-time work" and there was "no personal enrichment" in her fraudulent actions.

He said Heneghan had a payment plan in place to repay the debt and had a "bright positive future career" after recently working her way into a position of responsibility.

"She's very clear that as that career continues, she'll be able to pay that money at a quicker rate," Mr Weller said.

Mr Weller said she was a person of "previous good character" with no prior convictions and a "top rating mother".

The court also heard that if a conviction was formally recorded, Heneghan would lose her job due to the security clearance required.

To illustrate the point, Heneghan was called to the witness box and gave evidence to that effect.

However, the Crown argued a conviction should be recorded against Heneghan's name because social security fraud was "prevalent and easy to commit" and deserved "heavy penalties".

The court heard while the defendant's background was "tragic and unfortunate" the domestic violence occurred 13 years before the fraud. The children were now both adults.

Magistrate Michael Dakin elected to adjourn the matter to return to Lismore Local Court on Friday.