A collection of Ipswich fraudsters from the past decade.
A collection of Ipswich fraudsters from the past decade.

Need v greed: What motivated Ipswich fraudsters

WHEN opportunity and motive present themselves, otherwise law-abiding, good people can be lured into temptation - especially if they are feeling financial stress.

As we have found, pure greed is also another motivator.

A fraudster's gain is often at the expense and emotional distress of others, including small businesses, government departments, vulnerable family members, and unsuspecting online buyers.

The Ipswich has had its fair share of criminal fraud going before courts, with cases involving everything from the sale of puppies to sophisticated health frauds.

Here are 10 prominent cases the Queensland Times has reported on.

 

1. Insurance scam nets $300,000 after false MS claim

In March 2018, Mount Tarampa woman Wendy Jayne Lentini, then aged 56, was jailed for her role in pulling off a $300,000 insurance scam from the Commonwealth Bank's CommInsure.

Lentini falsely claimed to have Multiple Sclerosis to receive the massive payout.

She was brought undone when her husband detailed her offending before taking his own life.

An Ipswich District Court jury found her guilty in a trial and Lentini was sentenced to a five-year jail term. She was ordered to serve 18 months with the sentence then suspended.

Judge Dennis Lynch QC found that her husband and another male were clearly the architects behind the crime.

 

Wendy Lentini was charged with frauds totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Wendy Lentini was charged with frauds totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

 

2. Fraudster at it again, this time with Centrelink

A year later in April, 2019, Wendy Lentini was back before the Ipswich Magistrates Court to be sentenced after she pleaded guilty to Centrelink fraud.

It involved $36,279 she received by falsely claiming a disability benefit between May 2012 and June 2015.

The Commonwealth Prosecution case sought that she serve additional jail time. Magistrate Tracey Mossop put Lentini on a $5000 good behaviour bond, and with a Reparation Order to repay the $36,279.

 

3. Accountant disgraced when nine years of sin comes to light

Ipswich accountant Brett Cameron Smallwood made false claims of more than $500,000 and in August 2014, aged 54, he was sentenced to an additional 4 ½ years jail on an existing sentence.

Smallwood defrauded clients and taxpayers with his nine years of offending. He obtained $397,000 of the $563,000; persisting after audits, his deregistration in 2005 and after authorities in 2009 discovered his frauds committed in 2002.

Judge Leanne Clare said the offences were "blatant and sustained".

"You were driven by greed, you put many clients who trusted you in jeopardy," she said when sentencing him in Brisbane District Court.

"You cynically exploited their hard times and it seems you've only acknowledged guilt because the evidence against you was overwhelming.

"You used your expertise as an accountant, you abused your position as a registered tax agent."

At the time of sentence Smallwood was already serving a five-year jail term for defrauding $120,000 from clients in 2002.

The 4.5-year sentence was to begin on September 9, 2015.

 

4. Former CEO caught in bribery scandal

 

Former Ipswich City Council CEO Carl Wulff tells of the impacts being charged with corruption has had on his life.
Former Ipswich City Council CEO Carl Wulff tells of the impacts being charged with corruption has had on his life.

 

In February 2019 former Ipswich City Council CEO Carl Wulff was sentenced to a five-year jail term for accepting bribes worth more than $240,000.

Wulff, then 66, pleaded guilty to two counts of official corruption and one count of attempting to pervert the course of justice. It was to be suspended after he served 20 months.

 

5. Bar code scammer labelled 'opportunistic'

In January this year Rachel Girling, 35, a cleaner from Ripley, was sentenced in Ipswich Magistrates Court for frauds and ripping off goods and jewellery worth about $30,000.

One woman's summer wardrobe went missing during the off season when she employed Girling as a cleaner.

Girling pleaded guilty to six charges of stealing as a clerk/servant between July 2018 and February 2019, and between May and June 2019; two counts of fraud at Bunnings in Springfield in March 2019; attempted fraud at Bunnings; possession of tainted property; and breach of bail condition.

Police prosecutor Ricky Tsoi said Girling stole goods from Bunnings by using barcodes from cheaper goods at the self-scan check-outs to obtain items including a barbecue, table setting, Ryobi pressure cleaner, cordless vacuum cleaners, Nautica blinds, a child safety gate, and an elephant-shaped planter box.

 

House cleaner Rachel Girling received a jail term for fraud and theft at Bunnings and Blackwoods.
House cleaner Rachel Girling received a jail term for fraud and theft at Bunnings and Blackwoods.

 

The court heard she was employed as a facilities manager with Blackwoods when she offended against the company.

The value of her offending was $21,430.18 - with Blackwoods losing $10,878. Officeworks was also a victim.

The total loss from all offences was $30,382.98, which included jewellery thefts when Girling was employed as a domestic cleaner.

"Overall it was unsophisticated but opportunistic. And a gross breach of trust fuelled by greed," Mr Tsoi said.

Girling was sentenced to two years jail and ordered to serve eight months before being given parole. The remainder of the sentence was to be suspended for three years.

She was ordered to pay $10,878 restitution to Blackwoods; $10,082 to Office Works; and $470 to Coles.

 

6. College employee tapped into Telstra accounts

In December 2019 a fraudster who ripped off his employer - a college - by at least $75,000 escaped jail time when given immediate parole by an Ipswich magistrate.

Brendan McCann, 36 from Toowoomba, supplied his family with the stolen iPhones, computers and internet data which he stole through his employment at the Queensland Agricultural Training College (QATC).

His criminal enterprise involved the fraudulent use of unauthorised Telstra accounts.

Brendan McCann pleaded guilty in Ipswich Magistrates Court to stealing when a clerk/servant ($39,000 value); and two charges of committing fraud by the dishonest application of property by an employee. The offences identified involved $75,294 worth of property and committed between 2016 and 2018.

In facts before Ipswich Magistrates Court the crimes of Brendan McCann included iPhones; 18 Apple Air Pods, six Apple watches, and seven Telstra handsets worth $7000 that he apparently gave to a friend to help him out of a debt.

McCann admitted taking home electronic property phones and computers that belonged to the agricultural college and "doctored" invoices placing false orders.

Some of the property was sold on eBay or Gumtree. And he admitted selling about 20 phones online property.

Magistrate MacCallum said McCann showed "a high level of co-operation" with the police investigation.

She said he returned items although there was then $22,607 still outstanding.

She sentenced McCann was to a jail term of 30 months, with immediate release on parole.

 

7. FOR SALE: Non-existent puppies

A FRAUDSTER mum who sold puppies online that never arrived, was jailed in January this year after the mean-spirited scheme earned her $6000. One mum paid $400 for a puppy to give her daughter on her birthday.

Mikayla Dederer, 25, from Woodend, pleaded guilty in Ipswich Magistrates Court to 19 charges of fraud by dishonestly gaining a financial benefit; stealing a car battery at Gatton.

Prosecutor Sergeant Chris O'Neill said Dederer was also subject to a suspended jail sentence imposed by Brisbane Magistrates Court for prior offences.

Mikayla Dederer was jailed for fraud offences.
Mikayla Dederer was jailed for fraud offences.

Sgt O'Neill said she owed $5953.

"The facts are disgraceful behaviour and portray predatory behaviour on the public. There is extensive history with similar frauds and dishonesty," Sgt O'Neill said.

The frauds involved non-existent tickets to music and sporting events, including Jonathan Thurston's last football game.

Defence barrister Carl Martinovic said Dederer instructed she was in a deep state of depression and suffering post-natal depression at the time, but conceded Dederer's conduct was "absolutely reprehensible".

Magistrate David Shepherd sentenced Dederer to 15 months jail with parole eligibility from June 15. He ordered that she pay restitution of $5953.

He also activated a previous suspended nine month jail sentence to be served concurrently.

Mr Shepherd said the circumstances of the offending could only be described as predatory.

 

8. Fraudster sold boxes of phones to 'mystery man'

A DAD blamed the costs of looking after his extended family for his $135,000 fraud while employed as a courier.

He even sent money to his grandmother in Samoa.

In November 2019 the Ipswich District Court sentenced Maotua Levi, 24, to a jail term after he pleaded guilty to committing fraud valued at least $100,000.

His tearful mother apologised to the judge for her son's theft of mobile phones from his Karalee workplace.

The court heard it was an act of desperation and that the father of two may have received just $6000 when he sold boxes of the phones to a mystery man on the Gold Coast.

 

BRAVE MUM: Mrs Faifai Levi leaves Ipswich Courthouse after giving an apology to the Judge for the crimes of her son Maotua.
BRAVE MUM: Mrs Faifai Levi leaves Ipswich Courthouse after giving an apology to the Judge for the crimes of her son Maotua.

 

His courier company conducted an audit in June 2018 and discovered that 21 consignments involving phones and related devices had not been delivered between May 10 and May 21, 2018.

Levi had deliberately not scanned the missing goods through the company system with the total loss worth $135,284.

Levi made full admissions to police saying he on-sold the items "to an unknown male on the Gold Coast" because he was suffering financial hardship.

The Crown prosecutor said his criminal activity meant a significant loss and had jeopardised the company.

Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren SC said Levi had shown "absolute disdain" in the contemptuous way he treated the property of others.

"You succumbed to temptation of your employment. It was a gross breach of trust."

Levi was convicted and sentenced to four years jail. He was ordered to serve 12 months.

 

9. Couple ripped off online customers

AN Ipswich couple was banned from accessing online market sites like Gumtree to buy or sell goods after being convicted of online frauds in October 2018.

Jamie Cleveland and Joshua Madsen-Bennett were busted by specialised police targeting cybercrime after they defrauded people or businesses of more than $7500.

 

Joshua Madsen-Bennett was banned from online market sites after ripping off buyers.
Joshua Madsen-Bennett was banned from online market sites after ripping off buyers.

 

The offences involved AFL Grand Final tickets, electronic gift cards, concert tickets, theme park tickets and clothes.

Cleveland, a New Zealand citizen, was described in court as being the mastermind of the crimes, and previously convicted of committing similar fraud.

Cleveland, 22, and Madsen-Bennett, 21, from Goodna, each pleaded guilty in Ipswich Magistrates Court to committing a series of fraud, forgery and uttering offences.

Cleveland pleaded to a total of 18 charges and Madsen-Bennett to 11 charges.

 

Jamie Cleveland and her co-offender Joshua Madsen-Bennett were banned from online market sites after ripping off buyers.
Jamie Cleveland and her co-offender Joshua Madsen-Bennett were banned from online market sites after ripping off buyers.

Police prosecutor Ricky Tsoi said the offences were committed online from their Goodna home between December 31, 2017 and April 9 2018.

Mr Tsoi said the total fraud was $7608 with the victims contacted via marketplace sites on Gumtree or Facebook.

Magistrate David Shepherd convicted and sentenced Cleveland to nine months' jail with immediate release to supervised parole.

She also received an 18-month probation order.

Mr Shepherd made a combined order that Madsen-Bennett complete 100 hours of unpaid community service work and a 12-month probation order.

With no previous criminal offences, a conviction was not recorded. Both were banned from accessing internet marketplace websites used by people to buy or sell goods.

 

10. Fraudster jailed for ripping off employer

Ipswich office professional Sarah Elizabeth Wimpenny was sentenced to a three-year jail term for defrauding her employer by more than $30,000.

In October 2018 after a three-day trial, an Ipswich jury found Wimpenny, 44, guilty of fraud - dishonestly gaining a pecuniary benefit for herself as an employee exceeding $30,000; and fraud by dishonestly applying to her own use company bank accounts and credits when an employee.

 

Sarah Elizabeth Wimpenny was found guilty of fraud.
Sarah Elizabeth Wimpenny was found guilty of fraud.

 

The offences were committed against Australian Gypsum Industries (AGI) between February 26, 2012 and July 13, 2012.

Wimpenny, from Redbank Plains, was employed in February 2012 as an administration officer at the Carole Park office of the building materials and insulation company.

Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren SC sentenced her to three years jail for committing fraud as an employee; and two years jail (concurrent) for the other fraud offence.

With 245 days in pre-sentence custody declared Wimpenny was due to be released to parole on August 26, 2019.