Sarah Ward, a 31-year-old resident of Noble Park North in Melbourne, Australia, has been convicted of ripping off $181,121 from Medicare, the country’s public health insurance system.
Ward, a mother of two, had been working as a receptionist at the Melbourne Digestive Clinic when she made hundreds of fraudulent Medicare claims for herself and her husband.
Court documents revealed that she made up to 80 claims a day between March 2019 and April 2020, submitting 781 false Medicare patient claims in her own name and 828 in the name of her husband.
Ward had been hoping that her pregnancy would save her from a jail term.
However, County Court of Victoria Judge Geoff Chettle rejected her plea, sentencing her to jail despite the pregnancy excuse.
Ward had a previous conviction in 2015 for a $29,000 fraud against a Melbourne hospital.
Ward’s fraudulent activities were motivated by her need to appear affluent to her peers, according to forensic psychologist Patrick Newton, who testified at her trial.
Ward had access to the Medicare patient claims system as part of her job and used it to make false claims for consultations with the two doctors who supervised her at the clinic.
Crown prosecutor Adam Murphy accused Ward of “robbery of the Australian community,” and Ward’s barrister, Michael Allen, attempted to convince Judge Chettle that jailing her would have adverse effects on her child’s health and well-being.
Nevertheless, Judge Chettle ruled that Ward’s child would be able to live with her in jail through the state’s Living With Mum Program.
Ward has already repaid the money in full by borrowing money from her mother, selling a $70,000 car, and taking $100,000 from a mortgage offset account. Ward is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday.