Handyman ordered to pay up for fraud

A Frankston handyman has been ordered to pay back more than $150,000 and handed a one year suspended jail sentence for defrauding Victoria’s workers compensation scheme.


Jack Berry, 50, pleaded guilty in the Frankston Magistrates Court to two fraud charges for secretly working while claiming compensation from WorkSafe for a work related back injury.

He was ordered to repay a total of $124,397.20 in compensation and $27,000 in legal costs.

The court heard that Mr Berry's offences stretched across more than two years, from August 2014 to October 2016.

During this period, Mr Berry worked as a handyman under various business names: United Home Improvement, Gate Fencing & Metal Works and JB Home Improvement Team.

A WorkSafe investigation found 15 clients paid Mr Berry a total of $88,225 for work including kitchen and bathroom renovations and fence, gate and retaining wall installations during this period.

At the same time Mr Berry was submitting certificates to WorkSafe which stated he was unfit for work and had not engaged in any form of employment.

Surveillance video showed Mr Berry lifting, moving, loading and unloading renovation materials.

During the execution of a search warrant at Mr Berry's home various business documents were seized, along with more than 70 boxes of unopened medication prescribed by Mr Berry’s treating doctors.

Mr Berry pleaded guilty to obtaining financial advantage of $91,158.80 by deception under the Crimes Act and was convicted and sentenced to 12 months gaol, wholly suspended for two years.

He also pleaded guilty to obtaining $33,238.40 in fraudulent payments under the Workplace Injury, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act for which he was convicted and released on a 2 year adjourned undertaking.

The court ordered the seized drugs be destroyed.

WorkSafe's Insurance Business Unit Executive Director Shane O'Dea said while the vast majority of injured workers do the right thing, sadly a few think they can game the system for their own benefit.

Mr O'Dea said the Victorian workers' compensation scheme was set up to provide injured workers with the support and treatment they need to get better and return to work when it was safe to do so.

"Those who defraud the system will be held to account," he said.