A Melbourne man who set up an NDIS-registered company that did not provide any services managed to defraud the disability scheme of $370,000 in just five weeks.
Mohamed Osman Omar, 36, exploited a security flaw in the National Disability Insurance Scheme that allowed him to make up participant numbers and bill 168 people for services without knowing their names or disabilities.
Although his firm did not provide any services, the money was removed from accounts of people who desperately needed NDIS funding after Omar had simply entered their participant number.
Omar’s lawyer Sarah Thomas told the County Court of Victoria in Melbourne yesterday the scheme was “unsophisticated” but, through his offending in June and July last year, Omar managed to buy a BMW, a Toyota Hilux and spend $14,000 on Louis Vuitton products.
He has pleaded guilty to defrauding the NDIS of $370,336, attempting to defraud it of $85,099 and using the proceeds of crime.
Prosecutor Samantha Holmes told the court Omar set up a company called Langmann Care and arranged for it to be registered as a provider of NDIS services.
She said he then accessed different NDIS participant accounts by amending the last two or three digits of the participant numbers.
The court heard Omar started accessing participant records from June 18 and made 332 successful requests for payment for non-existent services to 168 participants. “The world has lots of participants for us,” Omar texted an associate while on holiday to Egypt in late June.
On July 4, he texted another associate about whether anyone had their plans approved. “We need to start f..king working mate,” he wrote. “Are we going to wait until everyone robs the government and then we get shut down without making a $1?”
One woman travelled from NSW to be in court and read a victim impact statement about how the fraud had affected her son, who has several conditions including autism and epilepsy. She said the shortfall in his account left her struggling to find money for day-to-day items and to pay for his support workers.
“I felt I had betrayed Hamish by mismanaging his plan and I couldn’t work out how,” she said. “What little money I did have was then prioritised to fill my son’s needs.”
The woman said her son’s behaviour started to decline, there was a marked regression in his speech and his rate of seizures increased due to anxiety about the change to his daily routine.
Ms Holmes read out the impact statement of another victim, who cares for her stepson who has autism, a severe intellectual disability, and who is non-verbal. The woman said her stepson was happy and settled with his NDIS services until the fraud. “I have always prided myself on being a good budgeter but this time I couldn’t make things balance,” she said.
The woman said she felt violated when she saw someone had accessed her stepson’s plan without her knowledge and couldn’t stop thinking about other people taking the rest of his money.
“I believed it was my fault for not being as vigilant as I should have been,” she said. “I do not understand why anyone would take money from the people who need it most.”
Omar’s barrister said the offending started when his brother’s restaurant in the southeast suburb of Prahran was failing and he was remorseful. “He is and always has been prepared to pay back every cent if he is able to do so,” Ms Thomas said.
She described the offending as “unsophisticated”, easily detected and said it took place over a short period of time.
The maximum penalty for dishonestly causing a loss to a federal entity is five years’ jail.
Judge Julie Condon remanded Omar into custody and will sentence him next month.
NDIS account security was updated in September.