The wife of millionaire mining executive, Hamish Bohannan, has been sentenced to 18 months’ jail for committing Centrelink fraud to the tune of $62,000.
Julie Bohannan, 42, received $62,709.85 in Centrelink payments over a period of eight years between November 2001 to July 2009 – even after she’d married the former Chief Executive of Braemore Resources and Bathurst Resources in 2006. She began making claims prior to meeting Mr Bohannan, but after moving in with him in 2004 and, even though Mr Bohannan had made $3.8 million in the five preceding years, she continued to fraudulently receive Centrelink payments, claiming she was a single mother living with her parents with no other source of income.
Her fraud also included falsifying forms, lying about property ownership and claiming a family tax benefit for her second child, Ella, despite Mr Bohannan’s massive income.
Mrs Bohannan’s lawyers pleaded on her behalf for a merciful sentence, pointing out that, four years before being charged, she had paid back the money she’d received. They also asked the judge to consider her case for extenuating circumstances, as she was still caring for her first daughter, Georgia, who has severe epilepsy.
But Judge Andrew Stavrianou, when passing sentence, said the fraud was planned and deliberate, “not truthful” and “not forthright” and was motivated by “greed not need”, and that a prison sentence was necessary both to punish and send a message to the community.
Mrs Bohannan was sentenced to 18 months prison, but will be eligible for parole in nine months.
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With so many Australians doing it tough, including Age Pensioners and the unemployed, this sentence is fully justified and sends a strong message to current and would-be welfare cheats.
I mean, how much does she need? Sure, whilst Mrs Bohannan was a single mother of one child she was deserving of Centrelink payments. But after meeting and marrying a millionaire, there is just no excuse for this blatant ripping off of the system.
How could she think she could be eligible for ‘special circumstances’? She claims it is because she has a child with a mental disorder. Really? There are plenty of Australian mothers looking after children with an illness or a disability who, because of this duty of care, can’t get a job and definitely don’t have the luxury of access to a multimillion-dollar bank account.
The fact that her lawyers even expected to receive leniency for this gross abuse of the system is appalling. Mrs Bohannan may have once been a deserving recipient of welfare payments, but to go on claiming benefits – which in her case were ‘benefits’ – after she had married a millionaire is, in my opinion, simply unpardonable.
But that’s just my opinion. I’d be interested in hearing what the 2.5 million Australians who live in poverty think about this case, as well as the older Australians who do not own a house, who have minimal assets, and rely on a welfare system that is constantly under the microscope, being threatened with cut backs, and is, in many cases, barely enough on which to live even a modest lifestyle.
What do you think? Do you think this sentence is justified? Should Mrs Bohannan have been given leniency for her circumstances? Or do you think this sentence should have been harsher? Do you feel that this sentence sends a strong message to deter would-be welfare cheats?
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