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NT agent found guilty of $100k+ fraud


Flight Centre fraud ‘widespread’, court hears

Flight Centre repaid has $1.8 million to the Northern Territory Government to settle a civil dispute about the practice of submitting inflated invoices.

 

The revelation was heard during a separate court procedure against a former NT Flight Centre travel agent, who admitted guilty to rorting a state government pensioner travel scheme of more than $110,000.

 

 

According to the ABC, Vanessa Barrett pled guilty in the Supreme Court to obtaining benefits by deception while working at Flight Centre’s Palmerston branch near Darwin between 2011 and 2013.

 

The 45-year-old had submitted 169 false invoices with inflated flight costs for reimbursement by the NT Health Department. 

 

"Her fraud was part of the reason she was able to shine in this organisation," prosecutor David Morters told court, explaining that the extra money had been paid to FLT and that Barrett had received a $4,000 annual bonus as a result.  

 

"People have to do a risk evaluation if they are contemplating engaging in this activity."

 

Defence counsel, Peter Maley, said Barrett felt "absolutely devastated and destroyed" by her conduct, and argued that her case differed greatly from the high profile jailing of former Darwin travel agent Xana Kamitsis, who defrauded the same scheme.

 

While Kamitsis was an owner-operator who received all the profits from her fraud, Maley said his client had received a "minute percentage" of the fraudulently obtained funds, with the "lion's share" going to Flight Centre, ABC reported.

 

Used by travel agencies across the NT and even discussed at Flight Centre staff meetings, Maley described false the practice of false invoicing as “widespread”. "It was a universal and common practice," he said.

 

Despite the "acquiescence" of Flight Centre's middle management, there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by these staff, prosecution said.

 

"Everyone was doing it, but that doesn't make this individual less culpable," Mr Morters said.

 

One of several similar prosecutions in NT, Ms Barrett could face jail time of at least three years.

 




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