Strike Force Mercury dismantle family day care fraud syndicate in Sydney’s south west

Detectives have dismantled an alleged criminal syndicate operating a large-scale family day care fraud with the execution of over 30 search warrants at 18 locations and 13 arrests today.

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 (Wednesday 21 October 2020), 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.

Thirteen people were arrested, including eight women – a 46-year-old, a 45-year-old, 40-year-old, two 30-year-olds, two 29-year-olds, and a 28-year-old – and five men – a 37-year-old, 34-year-old, two 29-year-olds and a 26-year-old.

Detectives seized documents, laptops and several electronic devices for forensic examination.

Today’s operation was assisted by the Criminal Groups Squad’s Strike Force Raptor, the Public Order and Riot Squad (PORS) and Regional Enforcement Squads from North-West Metropolitan and South-West Metropolitan regions.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said this impressive police work will save taxpayers millions and keep the money out of the hands of criminals.

“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 organised crime comes in many different forms.

“Make no mistake, the crimes we will allege have been committed here are the product of a sophisticated and extremely organised criminal syndicate,” Assistant Commissioner Smith said.

“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 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.

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