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‘Most egregious fraud’: former school head jailed for $430,000 scam

A former school principal who faked a serious mental injury to scam the Victorian WorkCover scheme while secretly operating a childcare centre has been jailed for 22 months.

Samer Ahmed, 54, from Roxburgh Park, was found guilty of seven charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception in the County Court of Victoria.

Ahmed was sentenced to a minimum non-parole period of eight months and ordered to repay $350,000 of the $431,228 defrauded from the scheme.

The court heard he began receiving weekly compensation payments for a stress-related injury while working as a school principal in May 2006.

The same month, Ahmed and his twin brother bought a property at Glenroy to build a childcare centre, which began operating in May 2009.

In June 2009, Ahmed's GP provided a report to WorkCover agent CGU stating Ahmed had depression and anxiety, would need lifelong psychiatric and psychological support and was totally unfit for any work.

Ahmed made a claim for permanent impairment benefits, which was referred to the independent medical panel. Ahmed told the panel he had no motivation, spent most of his day at home and had no social contacts outside his family.

The panel concluded Ahmed suffered from major depression related to his workplace injury and had a 20% whole person psychiatric impairment.

Throughout 2010, Ahmed continued to report to medical experts that he was not working and stayed in bed most of the day.

During this time, Ahmed was sent a significant number of invoices from office and equipment suppliers relating to the childcare centre and reported to the centre's WorkCover agent Gallagher Bassett the wages of its 15 full-time staff.

Between 2011 and 2014, Ahmed and his brother continued to operate the Glenroy centre while seeking to develop three more properties into residences and a childcare centre, and also launching an employment and training solutions business.

At independent medical examinations during this period, Ahmed reported that he had not worked since March 2006, that he spent most of his time at home and that he saw himself as totally disabled and unable to work.

In August 2014, the Glenroy childcare centre was sold for $1.5 million. Data later seized from Ahmed's hard drive reveals the centre made a total net profit of $684,441 between 2009 and 2013.

The fraud was eventually uncovered in November 2015 when Ahmed accidently sent a registration for WorkCover insurance for the new childcare centre to his agent CGU, instead of his scheduled certificate of capacity.

An investigation was launched when, after being advised of the error, Ahmed provided CGU with his scheduled certificate of capacity that certified him unfit for any work and included a signed declaration that he had not worked.

WorkSafe Executive Director Insurance Roger Arnold said the fraud was the “most egregious” he had seen in his time with the scheme.

"The level of deception and the length of time this man was willing to keep up the act and blatantly lie to multiple medical experts about a significant mental injury is staggering and just totally repugnant," Mr Arnold said.

"Our scheme exists to give workers who have suffered a mental or physical injury the support and treatment they need and those who seek to defraud it will be held to account."