A handyman who operated under a number of business names has been handed a suspended jail term and ordered to pay back more than $120,000 he fraudulently claimed in workers’ compensation.
Victorian man Jack Berry, 50, pleaded guilty to two fraud-related charges in the Frankston Magistrates Court, after surveillance video showed that he had been working while claiming workers’ compensation for a work-related back injury.
According to WorkSafe Victoria, the footage showed Mr Berry lifting and moving various renovation materials, while he had been claiming compensation between August 2014 and October 2016.
It launched an investigation into Mr Berry and his activities under business names including JB Home Improvement Team, United Home Improvement and Gate Fencing & Metal Works.
The investigation found that he had accepted payments from 15 clients totalling $88,225 for various building, fencing and landscaping works during the same period in which he had claimed $124,397.20 in workers’ compensation payments, stating that he had been unfit for work and not engaged in employment of any kind.
A search warrant on Mr Berry’s home found more than 70 unopened boxes of prescription medication that had been prescribed by treating doctors, WorkSafe Victoria said, which were seized along with various business-related documents.
Appearing before the court, Mr Berry pleaded guilty to obtaining financial advantage by deception to the tune of $91,158.80 and to obtaining fraudulent payments worth $33,238.40.
For the former conviction, he was given a two-year suspended jail term, while the latter attracted a two-year adjourned undertaking.
Mr Berry was also ordered to repay the funds in full as well as $27,000 in legal costs. The court also ordered the destruction of the seized medications.
“Those who defraud the system will be held to account,” said Shane O’Dea, executive director of WorkSafe Victoria’s Insurance Business Unit.
Mr O’Dea noted that the vast majority of injured workers do the right thing in relation to claiming compensation for work-related injury and illness.
According to the Australian Business Register’s ABN Lookup, Mr Berry’s ABN was cancelled effective from 2 June 2017.
It also lists a fourth business name, JB Steel Works, as operating under Mr Berry’s ABN, between 12 March 2014 and 14 January 2016.
The register records him as operating as a sole trader.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.