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Doctor sentenced for benefits fraud

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Doctor sentenced for benefits fraud
Court in Vienna. Photo: APA
16:44 CEST+02:00
A doctor was sentenced in the Vienna Regional Court on Thursday for fraudulently claiming social benefits.

Despite having a regular income, the woman applied to receive emergency assistance in 2005.

It was not until 2012 that financial police discovered her scam.

The doctor told a meeting of the magistrate's senate, chaired by Philipp Schnabel, that she "needed the money".

After losing her job, she applied to the Austrian Employment Service (AMS) for financial assistance.

However even after finding a new job, the physician continued to apply for aid, receiving around €58,000 in unemployment benefits over the years, for which she was no longer eligible.

Her fraud went unnoticed for some time as she had no official work contract, but rather worked on a fee per job basis. There was a considerable delay before she was taxed.

During questioning, the defendant explained that she was mired in debts of €700,000 - which she had apparently sought to pay off through her scams.

She had at that time assumed liability for her ex-husband, who had been declared bankrupt.

In explaining why the doctor had continued with her criminal conduct, her lawyer said she had been "desperate", in a state of "mental crisis" and was "simply no longer able to cope" with the financial burden. "Close your eyes, was her motto."

Due to the serious nature of the fraud, the senate convicted the woman to one and a half years in prison, which was commuted to a three-year probation period.

The woman has agreed and the judgement is final.

The doctor will also be required to pay the money she defrauded back to the AMS in monthly instalments, until she is no longer receiving any income.

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