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Former Flight Centre agent pleads guilty to fraud

June 19, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A former Flight Centre travel agent has pleaded guilty to defrauding a Northern Territory government pensioner travel concession scheme of more than AUD 110,000.

ABC News reported that Vanessa Barrett, 45, admitted in the Supreme Court to obtaining benefits by deception, while working at Flight Centre’s Palmerston branch between 2011 and 2013.

Barrett’s case is one of several prosecutions launched in an ongoing fraud investigation by Northern Territory police into travel agencies rorting the pensioner travel scheme.

Barrett submitted 169 false invoices with inflated flight costs for reimbursement by the NT Health Department. The cost of the flights she bought for pensioners was in fact far less than what was stated to the department.

Prosecutor David Morters told the court the extra money was paid to Flight Centre and Barrett received a AUD 4000 annual bonus as a result.

“Her fraud was part of the reason she was able to shine in this organisation,” he declared. The full ABC report can be read here.

Morters said Barrett’s conduct had undermined the revenue systems of the NT Government and the sentencing should deter others.

Lawyer for Barrett, Peter Maley, said his client had been “absolutely devastated and destroyed” by her conduct. Maley argued that Barrett should be assessed for a sentence of home detention.

Maley described the false invoicing practice as “widespread”, used by travel agencies across the NT. He said it was discussed at Flight Centre staff meetings and was a “universal and common practice”.

Written by Peter Needham

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