A joint agency investigation into an alleged organised criminal syndicate suspected of defrauding the National Disability Insurance Scheme of millions of dollars has resulted in the arrest of five people in western Sydney.
The arrests, which took place on Wednesday, are the result of a six-month investigation by the NDIS Fraud Taskforce, comprising members of the Australian Federal Police, the National Disability Insurance Agency and the Department of Human Services.
Taskforce investigators will allege that three registered NDIS providers fraudulently claimed more than $1.1 million in NDIS payments from more than 70 people on disability plans, or those managing their affairs.
AFP Acting Commander Mark McIntyre said police were committed to targeting those deliberately exploiting the Australian community.
“This is an organised criminal activity preying on those that society has chosen to help — it took money directly out of the pockets of NDIS participants, reducing their ability to obtain crucial assistance and services to help them lead their lives,” he said.
“Unfortunately this is not an isolated case, and we will continue to work with our taskforce partners to identify those preying on our needy and bring them to account for their selfish and despicable actions.”
Investigations into the full scale of the scheme are continuing, with more than 100 other potential victims identified through the three entities controlled by the syndicate — Universal Group Australia Pty Ltd, Reliance Disability Services and United Mission.
The three entities are believed to have received more than $2.6 million in NDIS payments since December 2017. Further enquiries are required to determine whether these payments are legitimate or fraudulent.
It is also suspected by the AFP that syndicate members applied to register another four entities as NDIS providers to claim payments.
Acting NDIA Chief Vicki Rundle said the NDIS Fraud Taskforce was a partnership with a focus on high-risk and serious criminal activity targeting the NDIS.
“The NDIA is committed to working with families impacted by alleged fraud and ensuring they have their funds reinstated in their plans where appropriate,” she said.
“We want to make it clear that fraud of the NDIS will not be tolerated. The NDIA takes the matter of fraud very seriously and will continue to invest in our capability to continue to identify attempts to defraud the scheme”.
Federal Police also seized three vehicles — a Porsche Cayenne, an Audi A3 and Mercedes E63 — suspected of being purchased with funds fraudulently obtained by syndicate members.