Cab driver admits rorting system

A NEWCASTLE cab owner who rorted a state government scheme for the disabled will be sentenced next year.

Court documents have revealed that he claimed subsidy payments for journeys that never occurred.

George Dimis, 60, made 190 claims under the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme for journeys with the blind, elderly and disabled that never occurred, between April and December last year, court documents stated.

He lodged the dockets to claim anywhere  between a few dollars and  the $30 maximum. Recently he pleaded guilty  to 190 counts of publishing false or misleading material to obtain an advantage.

He will be sentenced in February.

The maximum penalty for the offence is five years’ imprisonment when dealt with in the district court or two years in the local court.

The fraud amounts to $4426 relating to journeys totalling almost $12,000 in fares.

Newcastle Taxis general manager John Woods declined to comment yesterday.

But industry insiders told the Newcastle Herald that other drivers were  involved and had  been rorting the scheme for hundreds of thousands of dollars for more than a decade.

Among Dimis’s fake journeys was a $100 fare from Kurri Kurri to Wickam, and a $77 fare from Wickham to Redhead when his cab records showed that he was in Williamtown.

Roads and Maritime Services investigators analysed Dimis’s claim dockets and compared them to vehicle data, the statement of facts said.

They then spoke to the scheme’s passengers or their carers – including a paraplegic and a blind woman – to verify the claims.

They confirmed that the journeys did not occur or the fares were grossly exaggerated.

Dimis told investigators he had lodged the claims to make up for lost time while travelling to pick up customers.

He told the  Herald earlier this year that he lodged false claims to help the poor and disabled who couldn’t pay their fares.

The scheme was set up in 1981 to help disabled people who have little access to public transport.

They have 50 per cent of their taxis fares reimbursed, up to $30.