Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said the dismantling of an alleged criminal syndicate operating a large-scale family day care fraud in south-west Sydney will save taxpayers millions and keep the money out of the hands of criminals.
Detectives executed more than 30 search warrants at 18 locations - including six in Fairfield and three in Liverpool - leading to 13 arrests today as part of their ongoing investigations.
In July 2018, detectives from the Financial Crimes Squad and Organised Crime Squad, along with the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), established Strike Force Mercury to investigate the coordinated fraudulent activities targeting family day care operations.
Since the commencement of the strike force, the NSW Department of Education have assisted with inquiries.
As part of ongoing investigations, police received information that a criminal syndicate, allegedly directed by a 46-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man, was operating a sophisticated scam and received up to $500,000 in government payments between March and October this year.
About 6am today, Strike Force Mercury detectives executed 34 search warrants at properties and on vehicles across Sydney, including Guildford, Merrylands, Greenfield Park, Bossley Park, Edensor Park, Elizabeth Hills, Green Valley, Hoxton Park, Fairfield, Canley Heights, Smithfield, Blair Athol and Lane Cove.
Detectives seized documents, laptops and several electronic devices for forensic examination.
The operation was assisted by the Criminal Groups Squads Strike Force Raptor, the Public Order and Riot Squad (PORS) and Regional Enforcement Squads from North-West Metropolitan and South-West Metropolitan regions.
A 46-year-old woman was arrested in Guildford and taken to Granville Police Station, where she was charged with two counts of conspiracy to defraud and one count of cause delivery, document with false statement, Migration Act.
A 29-year-old man was arrested at a home in Blair Athol and taken to Campbelltown Police Station where he was charged with two counts of conspiracy to defraud.
It will be alleged that the pair were the silent directors of a company which fraudulently claimed to provide family day care services in order to successfully apply for government subsidies to the value of $500,000.
It will be further alleged that the woman married another man in March this year, in order for him to be granted a partner visa to remain in Australia.
She was granted conditional bail to appear at Fairfield Local Court on Monday, November 16.
The man was also granted conditional bail to appear at Campbelltown Local Court on Monday, November 16.
As part of the operation, a further eleven people were arrested and charged for their alleged roles in the scam, including another seven women - a 45-year-old, 40-year-old, two 30-year-olds, two 29-year-olds, and a 28-year-old - and four more men - a 37-year-old, 34-year-old, 29-year-old and a 26-year-old.
They were all charged with the offence of dishonestly intend to cause a loss and granted conditional bail to face court next month.
"We don't want to see criminals anywhere near the childcare industry, it is a risk to taxpayers, a risk to children and a diversion of crucial police resources," Mr Elliott said.
"Taxpayers deserve to know that important funding for day care and other essential services is being used appropriately and doesn't end up in the hands of organised criminals."
State Crime Commander, Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said: "Make no mistake, the crimes we will allege have been committed here are the product of a sophisticated and extremely organised criminal syndicate. The NSW Police Force will continue to be equally organised in working with our partners in law enforcement and government to investigate, arrest and prosecute those who choose to participate in fraud of any kind, let alone one of the scale that we have dismantled today."
- Inquiries are continuing and further arrests are expected. Anyone with information about fraudulent activity is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000.