Bruce Frederick Farrell, 55 of Albert Park pleaded guilty and was convicted on eight charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception in the Melbourne Magistrates Court last month.

He was sentenced to a total effective sentence of 21 months with a non-parole period of 12 months, and ordered to repay $136,979.60 in workers compensation payments received between May 2002 and February 2009.

Magistrate, Simon Garnett, was told Mr Farrell was working as a hairdresser when, in April 1994, he injured his right knee, ceased work, lodged a workers compensation claim and received financial support and surgery over the next 15 years.

In 2009 while still receiving benefits from the 1994 injury and despite lodging documents saying he was unable to work, he lodged a second claim after a truck he was driving overturned fracturing a vertebra in his neck.

WorkSafe’s investigation found that while working as a truck driver between 2000-01 and 2007-08 he earned just under $194,000.

Magistrate Simon Garnett said the workers compensation system relied on the honesty and integrity of workers, employers and service providers.

“This type of offending tarnishes those genuinely entitled (to help) and contributes to the misconception in the community that the system has a large number of fraudulent claims, which I understand is not the case.”

The Executive Director of WorkSafe’s Injury Support and Service Division, Len Boehm said fraud undermined legitimately injured workers and employers whose insurance premiums were the backbone of the system.

Mr Boehm said Magistrate Garnett’s sentence should send a strong message to the community that fraud was serious and that when detected would be investigated and lead to prosecution.

“The courts are taking this issue increasingly seriously and while working while receiving benefits is permissible, claimants must advise WorkSafe so payments are adjusted accordingly.”

Mr Farrell has lodged an appeal against his sentence. It has been listed for hearing in the Melbourne County Court on 24 March, 2011. He has been released on bail pending the appeal.