A woman who allegedly falsified her credentials as a qualified aged care worker is facing 20 charges of working as a nurse without registration, and a further 6 charges of “obtaining a financial advantage through deception”.
64-year-old Jennifer Anne Reed worked at nursing homes in South Australia and Deniliquin in New South Wales for four years before her lack of credentials were uncovered. She allegedly falsified her qualifications to secure employment as a nurse and director of aged care facilities.
Reed was arrested in Deniliquin after police received a tip-off in December 2014. She has already faced Adelaide Magistrates Court where her case has been adjourned.
Now, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has joined the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in prosecuting Reed, and she faces additional charges under the Health Practitioner Regulation Law 2008 (NSW).
Reed has been charged with “obtaining a financial advantage by deception”, which is one of the most common categories of fraud.
It is alleged that she deceived her employers by using falsified qualifications, which resulted in her obtaining a total of $30,000 in work over a four-year period.
Fraud Charges in NSW
Section 192E of the NSW Crimes Act was introduced in 2010 to replace over a dozen fraud offences, including “obtaining a financial advantage by deception”.
It is a very broad offence, covering any situation where a person, dishonestly and deceptively, obtains property belonging to another, or obtains any financial advantage or causes any financial disadvantage.
The maximum penalty is ten years imprisonment if the case goes up to the District Court, or 2 years if it stays in the Local Court.
“Deception” is defined by section 192B(1) as any words or conduct that deceive someone about facts or law.
“Obtaining a financial advantage” is defined by section 192D as gaining a financial advantage for themselves or another person. A person may also be liable for inducing a third person to do something resulting in a financial advantage.
Using a “Protected Title”
Ms Reed is also being prosecuted by the AHPRA for breaches of Health Practitioner Regulation Law.
That legislation lists several “protected titles”, including medical practitioner, chiropractor, dentist, psychologist, physiotherapist, pharmacist, chiropractor and nurse.
Section 113 makes it an offence to knowingly or recklessly take or use any such title in a way that could be reasonably expected to induce a belief that the person is registered, unless the person is in fact registered. The maximum penalty is a fine of $30,000 for individuals or $60,000 for corporations.
Section 116(1) makes it an offence for a person who is not a registered health practitioner to knowingly or recklessly:
(a) take or use the title of “registered health practitioner”, whether with or without any other words; or
(b) take or use a title, name, initial, symbol, word or description that, having regard to the circumstances in which it is taken or used, indicates or could be reasonably understood to indicate-
(i) the person is a health practitioner; or
(ii) the person is authorised or qualified to practise in a health profession; or
(c) claim to be registered under this Law or hold himself or herself out as being registered under this Law; or
(d) claim to be qualified to practise as a health practitioner.
Again, the maximum penalty is a fine of $30, 000 for individuals or $60,000 for corporations.
Ms Reed’s fate remains in the hands of the courts, but the fact that the DPP and AHPRA have joined forces indicates that both organisations consider the allegations to be very serious.