A 76-year-old great grandmother will spend four months behind bars after admitting to rorting almost $300,000 from Centrelink, having lied about her relationship status for more than two decades in a bid to keep her welfare payments.
Noel Newling, from Geelong, Victoria, only came clean about her fraudulent claims worth $287,000 – which date back to 1997 – following the death of her long term partner, Michael Stansfield, in 2016, after she discovered the former share trader was worth more than $4 million.
According to Channel Nine’s A Current Affair program, Stansfield bequeathed $50,000 in cash to his partner, as well as leaving her a $185,000 property and a $34,000 car, while the remainder of his estate, said to be worth almost $4 million, to various charities.
So, in a bid to claim his entire sizeable estate for herself, Newling confessed to lying on her Centrelink forms, admitting the crime in Geelong County Court on Wednesday, in the hope that she could successfully challenge Stansfield’s will and access the money.
Speaking to Channel Nine reporter Reid Butler outside of court on Wednesday, Newling said she claimed the Centrelink cash because she “had to live”, and insisted she was not aware how wealthy her late partner was, describing him as “very private”.
The great-grandmother was sentenced to a two years and 10 months in prison for her crimes by Justice Susan Cohen, who described Centrelink fraud as “by no means a victimless crime”, saying “the entire Australian community is the victim”. However Newling will serve just four months behind bars, having been granted a two and a half year good behaviour bond.
According to the Geelong Advertiser, Newling challenged the will in the Melbourne Supreme Court in September last year. However the decision has not yet been announced.
Minister for Human Services Michael Keenan said he was glad Newling had been caught and prosecuted, adding: “We don’t care what your background is or what age you are, if we find you’re ripping off the system we are going to go after you, prosecute you and do all we can to make you pay for your crime.
“I’m glad this person has been caught and prosecuted, they will serve a significant amount of time in prison. We’re going to go after them to make sure that every cent that was ripped off over a very long period of time is returned to the Australian taxpayer.”