Rita Mercuri, 44, of Epping appeared at the Heidelberg Magistrates’ Court today after pleading guilty in August last year to one count of fraudulently obtaining weekly compensation payments and seven of providing false information.
The court heard that Mercuri’s leg was amputated below the knee in 1990 as the result of a 1985 workplace injury.
Between July 2008 and June 2010, Mercuri visited medical practitioners and claimed she was wheelchair-bound, unable to work and in need of 24-hour care.
During this period, she received $59,687 in compensation payments, but video surveillance obtained in a WorkSafe investigation showed Mercuri could move freely on her prosthetic leg and was capable of living independently.
The court heard the investigation also found six carers submitted $52,500 in attendant care invoices during that same period for services they never provided to Mercuri. They split the proceeds with Mercuri. Two of the carers were her nieces.
In 2011, the six carers were charged with various offences under the Crimes Act and the Accident Compensation Act, including falsifying records and providing false information.
In sentencing, Magistrate Suzanne Cameron said Mercuri’s offending was “breathtakingly audacious” and that she exploited the WorkCover scheme for her own benefit.
“You were clearly the mastermind and the primary beneficiary,” she said.
Magistrate Cameron jailed Mercuri for 16 months, with eight months of her sentence suspended for two years. She was also ordered to repay $112,000.
Mercuri’s lawyer has lodged an appeal against the sentence. She was bailed to appear at the County Court in March.
WorkSafe Injury Support & Service Executive Director, Len Boehm, said cases like this undermined legitimate cases that needed financial support and care.
“Our scheme exists to provide short medium and long term care where it is warranted and ultimately to help people return to work and social interaction.
“While Ms Mercuri had suffered a serious injury and was entitled to help, she consistently overstated the extent of her incapacity for a number of years.
“The community can’t tolerate fraud of this deliberate scale. It undermines those who are hurt, particularly those with a capacity to work.”
“It plants a perception that a large number of people on compensation have fraudulent claims. That is absolutely not the case and I know it is immensely frustrating for those who do the right thing when they hear about cases like this,” he said.
“We want this case to serve as a reminder that fraudulent activity will not be tolerated. When it’s detected, it will be investigated and offenders prosecuted.”
Better support for injured workersNews
02 Dec 2019
Compensation fraud repays almost $100,000News
07 Feb 2021
WorkSafe to target uninsured businesses in CBD campaignNews
06 Jul 2011
Nine months' jail for comp fraudNews
24 Oct 2011
Man convicted of compensation fraudNews
18 May 2021
New agent panel to manage premium & claimsNews
07 Apr 2011
Billing details for some injured workers changingNews
17 Jun 2011
Fake psychologist jailedNews
29 Sep 2011
WorkSafe comment on Ombudsman's reportNews
26 May 2011
Prison sentence ordered for workers compensation fraudNews
22 Dec 2010
WorkSafe tackles uninsured employers in Sydney RdNews
11 Oct 2012
Nine honoured at gala awards ceremonyNews
23 Nov 2012
Injured worker jailed for ‘breathtakingly audacious’ fraudNews
25 Jan 2013
Man dies after being hit by garbage truckNews
14 Mar 2013
WorkSafe investigates first farm fatalityNews
04 Jun 2013
Record safety performance delivers solid resultNews
20 Sep 2013
Employees honoured for outstanding workNews
22 Nov 2013
WorkSafe Victoria announces positive half-yearly resultsNews
17 Apr 2014
Workshops highlight simpler workers compensation lawsNews
10 Jun 2014
WorkSafe announces new safety record in half-year resultsNews
27 Mar 2015