A TAXI driver of 40 years has landed himself with more than $15,000 in court costs, legal fees and compensation, and a $1000 fine, for rorting a scheme designed to help people with disabilities pay for public transport.
George Dimis, 60, made 190 false claims to receive payments for journeys that never took place between April and December last year, amounting to frauds worth $4426.
In Newcastle Local Court yesterday, Magistrate Robert Stone said there was no justification for Dimis's actions, which were planned and systematic.
The only reason a custodial sentence was not being imposed was because of Dimis's admissions of guilt, the fact he had paid the money back without quibble, his prior good character and significant community work, Mr Stone said.
"You have ruined that by your own actions," he said.
"You were in a position of trust to do the right thing, not only as a taxi driver but by this scheme . . . and what you have done is defraud this scheme.
"There is no justification, absolutely none . . . for this abuse of a system that was put in place to help out people, and you have to live with that for the rest of your life."
The false claims were made under the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme run by Roads and Maritime Services for journeys with the blind, elderly and disabled that never occurred.
Dimis had lodged the dockets to claim anywhere between a few dollars and the $30 maximum.
He pleaded guilty to 190 counts of publishing false or misleading material to obtain an advantage, the maximum penalty for which is either five years' imprisonment or two, depending on the sentencing court.
The scheme was set up in 1981 to help disabled people who have little access to public transport, by reimbursing them 50 per cent of their taxis fares, up to $30.
Dimis was given a 200-hour community service order, and asked to pay court costs of $332, compensation of $4426, $10,500 in legal costs, and a $1000 fine.