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CDPP v Strepelias [2023] VCC 1898

See full judgment: Austlii.

The offender was sentenced following pleas of guilty to 2 counts of dishonestly causing a loss to a Commonwealth entity contrary to s 135.1(5) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

Nature and Circumstances: Between May and July 2018, offender accessed the accounts of 50 NDIS participants to create false payment requests for services that offender’s company has purportedly provided to those participants. In reality, none of the participants has requested the services purportedly provided, and offender did not provide any services. The total amount of the fraud perpetrated on the NDIA by reason of offender’s conduct is $191,159.71. Offending affected vulnerable members of the community and represents serious offending.

Antecedents: Offender has a relevant criminal history stemming from frauds they helped perpetrate against the Queensland Government from 2016 to 2018. Offender pleaded guilty to 4 counts of fraud and was sentenced by the District Court of Queensland to a term of 5 years imprisonment to be suspended after serving 9 months.

Mental Condition: Offender has longstanding mental health issues and has sought professional help since 2012. Psychiatrist diagnosed offender with schizophreniform disorder and major depressive disorder. Psychiatrist is of the view that at the time of offending, offender’s mental state would have diminished their decision-making facilities and their anxiety would have made it harder to resist the pressure and influence others were exerting on them. Offender has a history of psychiatric admissions starting in 2016. The evidence does not support the application of Verdins principles 5 and 6 in this instance.

Rehabilitation: Offender’s plea of guilty was entered at the earliest reasonable opportunity without the need for a contested committal. Further, offender provided $94,030.98 as part restitution. Although offender has had sporadic issues with alcohol and drug use, they have been able to achieve a level of stability in recent years. Whilst in custody, offender took steps to retrain by earning a Major Training Certificate II in Resources and INfrastructure Work Preparation. Offender was assessed by QUeensland Correction Services as having a low risk of further general re-offending. In the circumstances, offender’s prospects of rehabilitation are very strong.

Totality: Offender served 9 months imprisonment in QUeensland. As this matter was unable to be dealt with while offender was serving that sentence, offender submitted that weight should be given to the fact that they were thereby deprived of any concurrency between the two sentenced. Further, the offences in QUeensland were of a similar nature and were committed closely in time to this matter. The principle of totality is relevant.

Offender sentenced to 2 years and 9 months imprisonment to be released immediately on recognizance of $5,000 to be of good behaviour for 3 years.

The CSD acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Australians and recognises their culture, history, diversity and their deep connection to the land. We acknowledge that we are on the land of the traditional owners and pay respects to Elders past and present.

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