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Woman stole from employer because she 'worked too hard'

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A Melbourne mum who ripped off Medicare through her employer, stealing $180,000 because she was angry about working unpaid hours, has had her sentence delayed.

Sarah Ward, 31, was due to be locked up on Wednesday after she admitted a second workplace-based medical fraud.

But on the eve of the sentencing her lawyers produced a third psychological report diagnosing her with a personality disorder – in conflict with two other experts.

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Previous experts found Ward had traits of personality disorders, but did not have a diagnosed condition.

The latest report found she did have a diagnosed personality disorder, with obsessive compulsive traits.

She was not a person driven by sheer greed or plain maliciousness, but by a disordered state of mind, her lawyer Michael Allen said.

Ward put through hundreds of dodgy Medicare claims for herself and her husband while working as a receptionist at the Melbourne Digestive Clinic between March 2019 and April 2020.

She made 1609 false claims in total – up to 80 a day – diverting $181,121.75 into bank accounts for herself and her husband.

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Medicare is facing its biggest overhaul in 40 years, which could see funding opened to nurses and paramedics.

Prosecutor Adam Murphy described it as a "robbery of the Australian community".

The latest medical report described Ward's offending as "passive hostility toward her employers".

Allen said she felt angry she was expected to work unpaid hours, and her obsessive personality provided her with a strategy that momentarily made her feel better about herself.

County Court Judge Geoff Chettle attempted to simplify that, suggesting "that's where she felt she worked too hard and they owed her money and so she stole it".

She'll be jailed when she's sentenced on Friday. She has been approved for a prison program meaning her one-year-old child can go with her.

Ward's offending came as a shock to then-colleague Vanessa Whitelaw, who had initially backed the young mum before being confronted with evidence of her guilt.

Coworkers wondered at Ward's lavish lifestyle, but never dreamed where the money was coming from.

"We thought it was very strange – she was very young, (with a) new family, mortgage driving around in a $150,000 vehicle, Gucci scarves, fancy shoes," she said.

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"But never in a million years did we think that this was going on behind the scenes."

They were not aware that in 2015, Ward dishonestly obtained $29,000 in false refunds on behalf of patients at Cabrini Hospital, where she had worked.

She had been working at another medical practice between the more recent offending and going on maternity leave before the birth of her second child last February.

They were not aware of her fraudulent history.

Ward has since repaid the money.

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