Woman jailed for $620k tax rip-off

A FORMER McLeans Ridges woman will spend at least four years behind bars for ripping off the tax office of nearly $620,000.

In sentencing Shirley Elizabeth Strachan, 52, and now living at Bell, near Dalby in Queensland, to a maximum six years’ in prison, Lismore District Court judge James Black said even after the Australian Tax Office grew suspicious and stopped paying her fake claims, Strachan tried to scam another $566,000 from the office.

When that failed, Strachan, who worked in the local aged care sector for nearly two years, tried using her son’s girlfriend’s name to set up a fake business to claim more money.

Strachan’s husband, Craig Anthony Strachan, 51, who spent 17 years working at the Wollongbar agricultural centre, now also living at Bell, appeared in the dock with his wife, charged with dealing with the proceeds of crime.

He was given a 15-month prison sentence, but released immediately, provided he pay a $500 bond and agree to be of good behaviour.

In sentencing her, Judge Black described an elaborate scam in which Strachan faked diesel fuel claims under the Federal Government’s agricultural sector diesel fuel rebate scheme; and also faked Business Activity Statements to get refunds for GST she never paid. The claims were on behalf of her company, Twickenham Horse Transport.

When queried by the tax office, she provided fake documents claiming she bought diesel fuel from a non-existent company, claiming she owned properties she had either already sold or not yet purchased, and radically exaggerating the size of those properties. Those included a 77-hectare property at McLeans Ridges, which the couple leased and lived at and which they told the tax office covered more than 1000 hectares.

When the tax office stopped paying her claims, Strachan opened a new bank account, got a new Australian Business Number and started a new company in the name of her son’s girlfriend and started making rebate claims in her name.

Strachan, who sat in the dock with her husband holding hands, crying and occasionally cuddling as Judge Black read out his verdict, pleaded guilty to a dozen charges, three of obtaining property by deception, six of attempting to obtain property by deception, and three of using a forged document.

Judge Black told Strachan that, without her guilty plea, she would have faced a maximum sentence of seven years’ jail.

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