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Unemployed NSW woman, Ellen Howard, 32, steals $350,000 in bushfire and Covid payments

Unemployed woman, 32, on Centrelink benefits steals $350,000 in bushfire and Covid relief payments by pretending her house burnt down – robbing cash from in-need Aussies

  • A woman, 32, has pleaded guilty to rorting Covid and bushfire relief payments
  • Ellen Louise Howard scammed $350,000 using fake and stolen identities
  • She has been charged with 40 fraud offenses and could face even more 

An unemployed woman on Centrelink used stolen and fake identity documents to scam $350,000 in bushfire and Covid relief payments, leaving some vulnerable Australians unable to make legitimate claims.

Ellen Louise Howard, 32, pleaded guilty to a litany of fraud offences when she fronted Cessnock Local Court in the Hunter Valley on Wednesday.

The charges include 11 counts of fraudulently claiming NSW bushfire payments and 13 counts of rorting Victorian lockdown payments over a period of seven months.

Howard also admitted to a further 16 dishonesty charges totalling $250,000 which targeted the Tasmanian Government and a charity organisation.

Ellen Louise Howard, 32 (pictured), pleaded guilty to a litany of fraud offences when she fronted Cessnock Local Court in the Hunter Valley on Wednesday

Thg unemployed woman on Centrelink used stolen and fake identity documents to scam $350,000 in bushfire and Covid relief payments. Pictured: NSW RFS are seen back burning at Long Gully Road in NSW, on September 9, 2019

Thg unemployed woman on Centrelink used stolen and fake identity documents to scam $350,000 in bushfire and Covid relief payments. Pictured: NSW RFS are seen back burning at Long Gully Road in NSW, on September 9, 2019

The court heard Howard used fake identity documents and ABNs she had either photoshopped or stolen to receive payments she was not entitled to, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Although Howard was not a victim of NSW’s horrific Black Summer Bushfires and has never lived in Victoria, she applied for subsidy payments in both states that were  intended to help Australians who were in desperate need of support.

She told the Services NSW that her home had burnt down at the end of 2019 in an attempt to secure a $10,000 emergency payment.

The court heard Howard’s home was partially damaged after her and her ex-partner got into an argument and accidentally started a fire.

Following the success of her first false claim, Howard went on to secure a further $93,000 in bushfire subsidies.

She posed as a Taree cafe, a Nabiac nursery and three agriculture businesses as part of the scam.

The court heard Howard (pictured) used fake identity documents and ABNs she had either photoshopped or stolen to receive payments she was not entitled to.

The court heard Howard (pictured) used fake identity documents and ABNs she had either photoshopped or stolen to receive payments she was not entitled to.

Although Howard was not a victim of NSW's horrific Black Summer Bushfires and has never lived in Victoria, she applied for subsidy payments in both states that were intended to help Australians who were in desperate need of support. Pictured: NSW Rural Fire Service crews fight the Gospers Mountain Fire as it impacts a structure at Bilpin, Saturday, December 21, 2019

Although Howard was not a victim of NSW’s horrific Black Summer Bushfires and has never lived in Victoria, she applied for subsidy payments in both states that were intended to help Australians who were in desperate need of support. Pictured: NSW Rural Fire Service crews fight the Gospers Mountain Fire as it impacts a structure at Bilpin, Saturday, December 21, 2019

In at least one case, a business which had genuinely been affected by the bushfire crisis was unable to receive support payments as auditors believed the subsidiary had already been out.

When Victoria went into lockdown in May last year Howard saw an opportunity to take her support payment scam interstate.

She claimed her work had been adversely impacted by the Covid crisis and applied for 13 $450 support payments despite not living there.

As part of the scheme she stole identity documents from her mother, stepfather and best friend, as well as a number of strangers.

In at least one case, a business which had genuinely been affected by the bushfire crisis was unable to receive support payments due to Howard's (pictured) scam

In at least one case, a business which had genuinely been affected by the bushfire crisis was unable to receive support payments due to Howard’s (pictured) scam

Howard also photoshopped copies of Medicare cards which she used to fool auditors as she raked in a total of $109,000 from both the NSW and Victorian Governments.

But there are also further offences yet to be tendered to the court which are expected to follow with her lawyer and investigators still negotiating the police facts.

Court attendance notices show that Howard made an additional 33 claims for Victoria’s $450 lockdown payments and also applied for three $10,000 Covid support payments in Tasmania.

Howard’s lawyer Donna Smith told the court her client is now receiving drug and alcohol counselling and mental health support.

Howard is due to re-appear in court on July 21.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk