Construction boss jailed for $96k Indigenous jobs swindle
A CONSTRUCTION boss who ripped off a "poorly administrated" NT Government Indigenous employment program that was "ripe for plunder" to the tune of almost $100,000, has been jailed for four and a half years.
Jason Woodhill, 47, was found guilty by a Supreme Court jury of claiming rebates under the Indigenous Employment Incentive Scheme to which he was not entitled nine times in 2017, reaping a total windfall of more than $96,000.
The court heard Woodhill had moved to Katherine to start a civil construction business - Woodhill and Sons Pty Ltd - in 2011, where "business initially boomed" and by 2016 had achieved a turnover of more than $5m.
In sentencing, Justice Stephen Southwood said the company's business was made up of about 80 per cent NT Government contracts and was eligible under the IEIS to claim rebates for wages paid to Indigenous employees on projects worth more than $500,000.
"The scheme to start with, while being of thoroughly good intention, was, as is unfortunately not uncommonly the case, poorly administrated and was ripe for plunder," he said.
Justice Southwood said while Woodhill and Sons employed Indigenous labour "from time to time" and had one full-time Indigenous employee, in 2015 they also took on a carpenter from Queensland who was not Indigenous and did not identify as such.
Despite the man's non-Indigenous status being known to Woodhill, when the business began to experience financial difficulties in 2017, he started claiming rebates for his wages under the IEIS.
Justice Southwood said the resulting swindle was serious offending, involving "a considerable amount of money".
"It involved a breach of trust in relation to a government scheme that was aimed at assisting people who often are among the most disadvantaged people in our community," he said.
Later, after placing the business into voluntary administration, Woodhill swiped a $252,000 concrete mixer from the company he once owned and subsequently pleaded guilty to stealing it.
The administrator reported the mixer stolen and when police found Woodhill using it at a job site in Oenpelli last year, he said he'd sold it to a man from Nhulunbuy called Liam who allowed him to use it.
"That was not true, the asset had not been sold to a person by the name of Liam or to any person at all," Justice Southwood said.
"The offender had appropriated the (mixer) and was using the asset for his own benefit, contrary to the interests of the company."
Woodhill will be eligible for parole after serving two years and six months in jail.
Originally published as Construction boss jailed for $96k Indigenous jobs scheme swindle