Nathan Leach ordered to repay $32,389.86 to Centrelink

A FORMER homeless man who turned around his life but then failed to properly declare his income has been fined and is paying back more than $32,000 in overpaid social security benefits.

Nathan Leach, 38, of Ilex Avenue, Warrnambool, pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court to three charges involving under declaring or not declaring his income and making false statements.

He was convicted and fined $2000.

Leach received Centrelink payments between May 2014 and June last year but made false statements about his earning in his fortnightly declarations to Centrelink.

One charged related to earning $65,000 and declaring just $8600.

Another to earning $10,400 and disclosing payments of $1872.

On the first charge he made 38 false statements relating to claiming he earnt no money or under declaring his income.

Leach also claimed Austudy between November 2015 and April last year when he earnt $21,800 and declared earnings of $2860.

In all he was overpaid $32,389.86.

He has already repaid $4787.89 and still owes $27,601.97.

The over payments were discovered through data matching with the Australia Taxation Office.

Defence counsel Belinda Northey said her client had a tough upbringing in New South Wales, started working in Tasmania where he suffered a back injury and then for a period of time led a transient lifestyle.

He lived on the streets and was homeless and still suffers post traumatic stress disorder after being the victim of an armed robbery while homeless.

Ms Northey said Leach had previously self-medicated with alcohol but in 2014 gained employment and turned his life around.

She said the offending should not have happened but a financial situation had arisen.

Ms Northey said Leach's employer was aware of the current situation and Leach was keen to finalise the case so he could get on with his life.

Magistrate Cynthia Toose said the offending had been consistent and repetitive with one charge involving 38 false statements.

She said fortunately it was clear that Leach would not lose his current employment.

The magistrate ordered Leach repay the outstanding $27,601.97 and said he had been doing the right thing since his offending had been disclosed.

Ms Toose said everyone had obligations to follow the rules around employment and taxation.