Centrelink Blitz

Reporter: Laura Sparkes

This woman is one of the biggest welfare cheats Australia has ever seen. It was a sophisticated fraud.

The 66 year old set up multiple identities over a 20 year period

Very successful creation of false identities which took us awhile to unravel

She pocketed a staggering $372,000 of taxpayers dollars and now she has to pay every cent back

"This is a really massive fraud." Says Hank

"These people aren't stealing from the government they're stealing from fellow taxpayers" says the minister

Tonight for the first time Centrelink takes us into their top secret security and surveillance unit revealing the sophisticated techniques they use to catch the cheats out

"Its a mistake for people to think we're an easy target, Centrelink saved $50 million of taxpayers dollars last year prosecuting 3400 fraudulent claims. They're caught out here a crack unit assembled just to find the frauds and they use all the modern research resources including facebook and twitter

You know if you look at the sort of info many people put up on their websites and if it contradicts the info we've got then obviously we have to investigate that

But it was a random tip-off from the public that triggered the surveillance unit into action to catch out this woman here she is withdrawing money from multiple ATM machines.

You can see her here using various guises using different accounts all of which we were able to use as evidence in court

We get them in the end; she's now faced with having to repay every cent of that money." Says Hank

"What about a prison term?" Asks Laura

"In this case 28 months jail." Replies Hank

Then there's this fraudster, he thought he could get away with pretending to be disabled with a bad back to claim a disability support pension.

"As you can see he's pretty fit in fact he's almost capable of dancing when you look at it." Says Hank

"As you can see from this he was obviously ripping off the system

"It's very clear isn't it what happened to him

"He ended up with a jail sentence of 17 months but the important thing is he got away with 28 grand but he has to repay every penny."

"This elderly man managed to claim two aged pensions." Says Laura

"This is a gentleman in a centrelink office who's receiving an aged pension that's straight forward; the problem is we later see him in another centrelink office under another name."

"So two identities, one person" Laura confirms

"Yes - He got away with 139 thousand dollars once he was convicted he ended up with an 18 month jail sentence." Replies Hank

"And he has to repay that money?" Asks Laura

"All that money has to be repaid." Confirms Hank

We can now reveal exclusively how Centrelink trapped thousands of people rorting the Brisbane flood payments in a highly organised scam they gained $1.2 million of money meant for flood victims

"Some people might think a thousand dollars isn't a lot of money and the government doesn't need this thousand dollars, I think that's completely the wrong attitude these payments exist for people who need them. A lot of parts of Queensland were affected." Says the Minister

Federal Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek is stunned at what Centrelink has uncovered.

"People who pretend they have suffered when they haven't, when there are so many people who are genuinely suffering are pretty low

While quick to hand out the money to those in need, the department is now investigating 5340 suspect payments with 2050 of those already found guilty of defrauding the payment.

"I think people think because the damage is so huge the government wont check and I think its important they understand we might, give them the benefit of the doubt in the first place, but we will go back and check." Says the Minister

Centrelink don't have to be in Queensland to monitor who is getting the payments a simple computer cross check with utilities water and electricity and the local councils creates a very clear picture of who should and shouldn't be receiving the flood payments

There was one man who claimed a thousand dollars because he said his property was more than 25 percent damaged we check with his real estate agent who told us that wasn't true so that guy was caught out

Another example a woman who told us her electricity was out we checked with the electricity provider who told us that wasn't the case

She had to pay back the $2800 she'd received.

"We had another woman who told us she couldn't get home and was stranded, we later found out she wasn't at home she was interstate working."

"People think they're stealing from the government, the government has plenty of money it doesn't matter if I get a thousand dollars I'm not entitled to, that's not the way I see it at all, I see it as stealing money, its money that belongs to Australian taxpayers."

"My real message to people who think it's easy to rip off centrelink is you may think you get across the starting line but we'll be at the finishing line to pick you up." Says the Minister


People can report suspected fraud to the Centrelink tip-off line 131524 or by going online at www.centrelink.gov.au