A woman who fraudulently claimed more than $3 million in childcare benefits through her family day care centre has been found guilty in the NSW District Court.
Melissa Jade Higgins, the sole director of Albury-based family day care centre Aussie Giggles was convicted of more than 70 counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception, forging documents and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
The ABC first reported Higgins’ arrest by a joint taskforce in March 2015. Authorities seized more than $2 million dollars in cash and a vehicle worth $90,000 following raids on properties in Albury and Wodonga.
Higgins was fraudulently claiming government childcare payments known as the Special Child Care Subsidies, which subsidised the full cost of childcare for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, for as many as 14 children who were not in her care.
Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the conviction sent a clear message to operators attempting to defraud the childcare system.
“People trying to rort the Family Day Care system are on notice, we will find you, we will take action to shut you down and you will be punished, including the possibility of being gaoled,” Mr Birmingham said.
He said that new measures introduced by the Federal Government to crack down on childcare fraud had already saved taxpayers $421 million.
“The Coalition Government has increased child care compliance checks by 500 per cent in just three years and this laser-like focus is weeding the shonks and rorters out from the high quality providers,” Mr Birmingham said.
Ms Higgins’ Aussie Giggles family day care centre was registered in 2012 and began operating in May 2013.
Since July 2015 the AFP has charged 15 people with defrauding the child welfare system and 75 services have been suspended or cancelled by the Department of Education.
Ms Higgins will be sentenced at a later date.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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