Fraud Offence – Australian Tax Office
Three charges of obtaining a financial advantage by deception from a Commonwealth entity, and one charge of attempting to obtain a financial deception from a Commonwealth entity.
In 2005 a truck driver from Frankston, who operated his own business, set up a company and family trust. Between 2008 and 2013 the truck driver lodged 18 Business Activity Statements (BAS) fraudulently claiming refunds for fuel purchased by the company. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) paid a total of $5.85 million into the family trust.
The ATO conducted regular reviews of the refunds claimed and the truck driver created and supplied falsified invoices to substantiate the claimed refunds. In 2013 an ATO auditor was appointed and contacted the truck driver, who claimed that:
- the business owned and operated 100-200 trucks;
- tax credits were claimed for diesel used in these trucks;
- the fuel was purchased in bulk; and
- the fuel was stored in large tanks at the business premises.
These were all false statements. The truck driver in fact only owned and operated one truck and a trailer, both which were purchased through finance.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions proceeded with the charges and the truck driver was summonsed to appear in the County Court.
The accused in this matter suffered from personal and financial stressors at the time such as:
- pressure to provide financial support to his unemployed step-daughter, who suffered from depression, and her two children who resided with him and his wife;
- pressure to provide for his wife who suffered from arthritis and could no longer work full time;
- pressure to provide for elderly in-laws;
- pressure to provide for his unwell sister who resided in New Zealand;
- the breakdown of the truck driver’s previous two marriages and estrangement from his biological children;
- his difficult childhood as an adopted child; and
- his various health problems, which included morbid obesity, severe depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Under the Criminal Code the County Court was obliged to take the above matters into account when determining the sentence. The Judge also took into consideration that the truck driver pled guilty at an early stage of the prosecution. The truck driver also showed contrition by voluntarily placing his company into liquidation to recoup the loss to the Commonwealth, realising approximately $2 million in liquidated assets.
The County Court Judge finally imposed a sentence of eight years’ imprisonment, with release on a recognisance release order after five years, if the truck driver demonstrated good behaviour for the first three years.
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