Parents of nine children steal $7000 in flood grants

AN IPSWICH couple ripped off $7000 in emergency flood grants after making a fake claim saying they had been affected.

Taioala and Mina Vaivai, parents of nine children, were spared from the disaster, but made an application to get money from the funds provided to people who had lost everything.

Their application was initially rejected, but the couple refused to give up.

In February last year at Redbank, the couple lodged sworn affidavits saying their house had been flooded and they were desperate.

The father Taioala, 60, received $2000 from the public purse, while wife Mina, 56, was granted $5000.

Prosecutor Senior Constable Adam McDonald said it was "serious high level offending".

"The government allocated money to people who had lost everything," Snr Const McDonald said. "The courts today should and do [consider] this as serious high level offending."

Magistrate Michael Quinn told the couple they should be thoroughly ashamed of taking advantage of other people's tragedy.

"You took advantage of the hardship, stress and trauma others endured when you hadn't suffered in that way," Mr Quinn said.

"You were initially refused, but that didn't deter you as you went on to make false declarations to get paid, which I regard as an aggravating feature.

"You persisted to take advantage of other people's suffering and commit fraud against Queensland people."

Since the fraud the Vaivais have paid back $1200 to the government and could have paid more but were hindered after using the cash for a trip overseas to attend the funeral of a family member.

Taioala was sentenced to three months prison, wholly suspended for 12 months, while Mina was sentenced to six months wholly suspended for 15 months.

Both where ordered to pay the remaining $5800 restitution to the department.

The pair's defence said Mina was dedicated to caring for her children and her sick husband and both were extremely remorseful and ashamed about their actions.

He said Taioala used to be a property officer at Mt Ommaney police station, but was forced to resign after a stroke in 2004.

Neither defendant had any criminal record beforehand.

Topics:  fraud

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