Woman pleads guilty to rebate scam

A DEFENCE barrister has told Lismore District Court his client should be jailed for at least three years for defrauding the Commonwealth of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Karen Elizabeth Strachan, 52, of Dalby, and formerly of McLeans Ridges, yesterday faced sentencing submissions for dozens of charges over fraudulent applications for Federal rebates she was not entitled to. She has pleaded guilty to the charges, which netted about $600,000 over two years.

Her husband, Craig Anthony Strachan, 50, has pleaded guilty to withdrawing and spending nearly $6200 of the money.

The court heard Karen Strachan had shown deep remorse over her offences and had accepted full and personal responsibility for them and accepted the consequences that would flow from them.

Her defence barrister, Chris Bruce, told the court some similar cases had attracted jail terms with five-year non-parole periods, but Karen Strachan’s remorse, combined with her guilty plea and the tragic circumstances of her recent life, meant Judge James Black should consider a shorter sentence of between four and six years with a non-parole period of between three and four years.

The court heard Craig Strachan had no involvement in – or direct knowledge of – the fraud, although he had noticed the family’s finances had improved well beyond what he would have expected from his salary with the Department of Primary Industries at Wollongbar and Gunnedah, and his wife’s income.

The court also heard Craig Strachan suffered depression so profound he had left the Government’s employ on disability grounds and had twice tried to take his own life.

The couple had been together for nearly 35 years, having met when they were 17, and had three children. Their two sons were dead, believed to have committed suicide. Their daughter was in hospital in Brisbane with a serious illness.

Judge Black adjourned the court to consider his decision, revoking bail for Karen Strachan but continuing it for Craig. The case will be mentioned again in Lismore District Court on Friday for a sentencing date.

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