One of the ringleaders of a criminal syndicate continued scamming more than $1.5 million from a government scheme to help disabled people despite feeling guilty because her niece has cerebral palsy, a Sydney court has head.
- Prosecutors said Amal Hilmi was “extremely active” in perpetuating the frauds
- They said Hilmi was motivated by “pure greed” and was “well aware” of her actions
- The pair are expected to be sentenced next Friday
Alaedine Rifai and Amal Hilmi will find out their jail sentences next week after pleading guilty to defrauding the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Appearing in prison greens from separate cells in Western Sydney, both were teary when closing submissions were handed down in the NSW District Court last Friday.
Crown Prosecutor Alex Brown said Hilmi was “extremely active in actually perpetuating the frauds” after targeting dozens people, some on expired plans.
“She even said ‘It was disgusting how we affected the community, to take away from individuals who are not capable,’ and that ‘her sister’s older child had cerebral palsy and this makes her feel particularly guilty’,” Mr Brown said.
“The defendant was well aware what she was doing was wrong and persisted over a long period of time.”
Crown Prosecutor Alex Brown argued the couple was motivated by “pure greed” and showed “no remorse”, referring to an exchange of WhatsApp messages sent from Rifai’s mobile phone.
Messages taken from Rifai’s phone included “I want gold teeth, charge everyone!” and “We will get Rolexes when we hit the million, it will take months to get the cars.”
The fraudulent payments enabled them to buy a Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, watches, handbags and enough land to build 20 luxury villas on the Indonesian island of Lombok.
The court head $306,000 had been recovered after Rifai agreed to cooperate with the police investigation.
Defence lawyer Doug Marr described the offences as “mid-range” and argued that the scheme was “not particularly sophisticated”.
“Any rudimentary audit process would have them discovered — they didn’t hide anything, it was very silly, stupid, it’s like the lolly jar,” he said.
“At this stage, the victim is the Commonwealth, it is like social security or tax.”
The court heard Rifai was sexually abused by a relative as a child when he visited Lebanon and eventually became addicted to cocaine which led to financial strain.
“The cocaine addiction caused paranoia, depression … against this impaired judgement, led to his offending,” Mr Marr said.
Defence lawyer Peter Little also argued the scheme targeted the Commonwealth, not the pockets of those on disability payments.
“There is no such proof here on the impact on the victims,” he said.
The couple’s baby boy lives with his grandmother in Broadmeadows in Melbourne’s north.
But hey have been unable to see their family because of COVID-19 restrictions on prison visits.
The pair are expected be sentenced before Judge David Arnott next Friday.
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