A man who defrauded the National Disability Insurance Agency of more than $300,000 has been jailed for at least 16 months.
Chief Judge Peter Kidd said Mitchell John Landry, of Bendigo in central Victoria, had "seized the opportunity to cheat the system" in his "not overly sophisticated" offending.
The 23-year-old, who in March pleaded guilty to defrauding and attempting to defraud the NDIA, was sentenced to three years in prison.
After 16 months in custody, Landry will be released on a three-year good behaviour bond.
The County Court heard Landry, the owner of Mitchell's Mowing and Property Services, received $342,940.51 for false service bookings he made to the NDIA in 2018.
Landry also pleaded guilty to attempting to defraud the NDIA of a further $156,338.42.
Landry's business initially provided legitimate services, for which he received payments from the NDIA.
But the 23-year-old went on to make the fraudulent claims, including more than 1000 hours of work for a client in NSW over an eight-month period, and more than 1200 hours of work for another client in an overlapping time frame.
IN OTHER NEWS:
He accessed the accounts of 24 NDIS participants through his fraudulent actions.
The court heard Landry used the money he received from the NDIA to buy a Mercedes Benz Sprint Van and several properties in the Bendigo area.
In a victim impact statement, the mother of one NDIS participant said she now had issues trusting the NDIS and feared it would happen again.
The woman said she was hyper-vigilant about services provided after the money was illegally taken from her daughter's plan.
Defence counsel Charles Morgan last month tendered a report from a clinical neuropsychologist, which showed Landry had a longstanding fixation with money.
The report also noted there was a causal link between Landry's autism spectrum disorder diagnosis and his offending, although it was hard to determine the extent of that connection.
Chief Judge Kidd said on the evidence before him, he could conclude that Landry's disorder had some impact on his offending, although it was not a considerable impact.
The judge noted Landry's "impulsiveness" disinhibited his actions, although there was "no doubt" that the 23-year-old had been broadly motivated by greed.
"It was not an isolated act of dishonesty," Chief Judge Kidd said. "There was a level of calculation and persistence. You knew what you were doing was wrong."
Chief Judge Kidd said in sentencing, he needed to take into account Landry's "disjointed" and "unstable" childhood.
The judge said Landry was "isolated" in his decision making despite being "less equipped" to make such decisions.
Chief Judge Kidd said he would consider Landry as a relatively young, first-time offender of previous good character.
The judge said the sentence would be moderated, given Landry had paid back the money to the NDIA and pleaded guilty at an early opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chief Judge Kidd also noted Landry's rehabilitation prospects were "fairly good", although they were dependent on Landry receiving treatment for his "troubling" impulsive behaviour.
The judge said ultimately he needed to show Landry and the community that this offending was not acceptable.
"A term of imprisonment is required," Chief Judge Kidd said. "No other sentence is appropriate."
Landry was convicted and jailed for three years. He will be released from custody after 16 months and placed on a three-year good behaviour bond with a $5000 security.
If Landry did not plead guilty, he would have been jailed for four years and 10 months, with a non-parole period of two years and 10 months.