A man who twice made worker injury compensation claims in the names of employers that he didn't work for, including his sister-in-law's business, has had to repay $135,000.
Published:05 July 2023
Khaled Haouchar, 43, was sentenced in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court last week after pleading guilty to two charges under the Crimes Act of obtaining financial advantage by deception, and one charge under the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act of fraudulently obtaining payments.
Haouchar was convicted and placed on an 18 month Community Corrections Order with 300 hours of unpaid community work, in addition to having paid back $134,925.
The court heard that Houchar lodged the first claim in 2015, stating that he injured his back, knees and arm when he fell from a ladder while working for his sister-in-law's cleaning business.
Houchar submitted an injury claim form, allegedly signed by his sister-in-law, as well as forged payslips from her company. His claim was accepted and he received $109,177 in weekly payments between February 2015 and August 2017.
In August 2016, WorkSafe investigators contacted the business owner after a discrepancy was noticed between payslips and a payment summary provided by Houchar. His sister-in-law said she had never seen him injured and had never employed him, signed a claim form, or issued payslips or a PAYG summary for him.
Immigration records showed Haouchar was overseas between May 2012 and September 2014 – so payslips for June and September 2014 provided to prove his pre-injury employment could not be legitimate.
The court heard Haouchar received a further $25,748 in compensation after submitting a second claim through a different insurance agency, saying he suffered injuries to his hips, neck, shoulder and legs, when a timber beam fell on him as he demolished a residential carport in Brunswick in May 2017.
However, investigators later found that the owner of the carport didn't hire Haouchar, did not know him, and that the carport had actually been demolished seven months before the alleged injury.
WorkSafe Executive Director Insurance Roger Arnold said compensation fraud was a serious crime that took money and resources away from injured workers.
"We have checks and balances in place to ensure that those who attempt to rip off the system that supports injured workers are caught and brought to justice," Mr Arnold said.
"Our message to anyone who thinks they can game the system is simple: the odds are against you, and when we catch you we won’t hesitate to prosecute you."