Volunteer of the Year jailed for Centrelink fraud
A Volunteer of the Year recipient who falsely claimed $85,000 in social welfare benefits deceived Centrelink for almost a decade, a court has heard.
Gold Coast grandmother Narelle Robyn Schinkel, 63, falsely filled in six documents which enabled her to gain 140 fortnightly payments of Newstart, sickness allowance and a disability support pension that she was not entitled to receive.
Over nine and a half years, Schinkel failed to declare that she was in a relationship and did not tell Centrelink about joint assets and properties at Pialba and Molendinar that she shared with her partner.
Schinkel was visibly shaken as she faced Brisbane District Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to six counts of obtaining financial gain by deception.
The sentence had to be briefly stopped when she appeared to suffer a panic attack.
The court was told Schinkel had paid back every cent of the $85,830.31 and was extremely sorry for her conduct.
Barrister Chris Minnery told the court the aged care volunteer was extremely well respected in the Gold Coast area.
The court heard Schinkel was named Volunteer of the Year in 2018 and had been nominated for a number of other accolades during her four years of volunteering.
Mr Minnery said the Burleigh Heads grandmother had no criminal history and there was "zero" chance of her committing any more crimes.
The court also heard she had mental and physical difficulties which would make prison tough.
Judge John Byrne said it was difficult to balance the "dichotic situation".
"Where at the same time, you are doing wonderful work in the community and yet continuing to receive allowances and pensions that you are not entitled to," Judge Byrne said.
Despite her otherwise good character, Judge Byrne said the fraud was too serious not to warrant a prison sentence.
Schinkel was sentenced to two and a half years' jail.
After six weeks behind bars, she will be released on a two-year good behaviour bond.
Originally published as Volunteer of the Year jailed for Centrelink fraud