Police charge two men over $360,000 fraud of disaster assistance grant

Detectives from the Cloncurry Major and Organised Crime Squad (MOCS) Rural have charged two men from North West Queensland with fraud offences after they allegedly accessed over $360,000 through fraudulently claiming disaster assistance funding.

In August 2020 detectives from MOCS Rural commenced an investigation after receiving information relating to claims submitted to the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) for 2019 North and Far North Queensland Monsoon Trough grant schemes.

Following a protracted investigation, on December 15 and 16 2021, investigators from the Cloncurry, Charters Towers and Longreach MOCS Rural with the assistance of Cloncurry and Mount Isa officers and the Electronic Evidence Unit executed five search warrants at a pastoral property near Cloncurry and several business addresses in Mount Isa where documentation and electronic evidence was seized.

A 47-year old Mount Isa man and 71-year-old man, a resident of the pastoral property, were arrested and charged with two counts of fraud.

It is alleged the men falsified and submitted documents and dishonestly gained funding from the Special Disaster Assistance Recovery Grants and the North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-farm Infrastructure Grant, both administered by QRIDA.

Following a physical inspection of the large pastoral property, police will further allege the claimed grant expenditures did not occur.

Police have laid an additional four charges against the 47-year-old man in relation to stealing and fraud offences as part of a separate MOCS Rural investigation into alleged stolen heavy earthmoving machinery.

MOCS Rural Detective Inspector Troy Pukallus said the arrests highlight that police will not tolerate people exploiting schemes designed to support those in need.

“These arrests are the culmination of over a year-long, intensive and extensive investigation and I would like to thank the investigators for their meticulous work.

“Disasters can have significant and often tragic impacts on Queensland’s remote and rural communities. To identify and prosecute people who would take advantage of the support provided to help people in difficult times is a pleasing outcome,” Detective Inspector Troy Pukallus said.

Both men will appear in the Mount Isa Magistrates Court on February 14.

MOCS Rural investigators inspected a large pastoral property to investigate if the alleged expenditure relating to the grant claims had occurred.

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