A Sydney woman is facing up to 13 years in prison after she allegedly masterminded a scheme that defrauded Centrelink of $130,000 — two years after police found $250,000 hidden in a safe in her bedroom floor.
Rebecca Assie, 62, pleaded guilty in the NSW District Court last week to first helping her husband run the fraud syndicate from their housing commission home before taking over when he died in 2015.
Ms Assie admitted to helping people fraudulently claim $137,000 in carer payments and coaching them on how to get doctors and psychologists to fill out the medical reports required by the welfare agency.
Court documents seen by news.com.au reveal the alleged lengths Ms Assie and her late husband Abu Ali went to secure welfare payments for other people from February 2013 to September 2015.
The 62-year-old, from Padstow in Sydney’s south west, also created code names for money when organising cash payments.
In one instance, where Ms Assie and her husband helped fraud Centrelink out of $66,647, the 62-year-old told a woman to pay her “two sweets” — or $2000.
The woman, who was paid by Centrelink until November 13, 2015, would often meet Ms Assie in McDonald’s toilets or at Chullora Marketplace, in Sydney’s west.
For Ms Assie’s help, the woman paid her $8000 cash.
In another incident she referred to $1500 as “one kilo and half of grapes”.
Documents also reveal the network of doctors the couple had, including some medical professionals who would even fill out medical reports without the Centrelink beneficiaries in the room.
In one instance, Ms Assie’s late husband told a woman — who managed to fraud Centrelink out of nearly $70,000 — to tell a doctor her daughter suffered “from ADHD and bad behave (sic)”.
That doctor refused to fill out the medical report but Ms Assie later coached the same woman to take her daughter to a different doctor.
“Say to him…I used to see you in the past. My daughter used to see Dr Joseph here at your clinic. Tell him ‘I’m going to bring my daughter here. Confuse him because they threw away the files,” Ms Assie said, according to court documents.
At one point, when the woman struggled to have the forms filled out, she asked Ms Assie’s husband why he couldn’t “sort everything out like last time”.
“They changed the rules. Centrelink became tougher,” Ali responded.
“It’s not like before and the doctor we used to deal with left, he’s not here anymore.”
Documents show Ms Assie’s complex web began to unravel in April 2015 when Centrelink denied one woman her carer’s allowance.
Ms Assie had allegedly introduced two women and encouraged them to pretend to be a carer and a care receiver so they could receive both a carer payment and carer allowance from Centrelink.
When they were declined the carer allowance, the pretend carer refused to pay the pretend care receiver the $250 fortnightly payment she had initially been promised.
Through May 2015, both women repeatedly called Ms Assie to try and fix the dispute that court documents allege became “increasingly hostile”.
“I want her to pay me from the carer allowance,” the woman said in one conversation. “Because if it becomes too much she’s not going to pay. I want her to pay me every two weeks.”
Ms Assie later encouraged the fake carer to cancel the Centrelink payments entirely — which she did on May 21, 2015.
The 62-year-old, from Padstow in Sydney’s south west, also pleaded guilty to dealing with money relating to proceeds of crime.
Officers from the Australian Federal Police raided Ms Assie’s home in September 2013 and found, in a locked safe hidden in a bedroom floor, 25 bundles of $50 notes totalling $244, 950.
Ms Assie and her late husband Abu Ali had been living in their Padstow housing commission home since 1999 and had been receiving welfare payments since 1990.
Documents show the husband and wife had received more than $120,000 from when they first started receiving Centrelink payments until 2010, three years before police found the wads of cash hidden in the safe.
Over the two decades the couple received Centrelink, they also intermittently applied for carer payments and allowances and the disability pension.
Ms Assie did not appear in court on March 27 when her legal team pleaded guilty to both charges.
She is facing a maximum of 13 years in prison for both charges and will be sentenced on July 18.