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A Melbourne man has become the first Australian to be convicted of JobKeeper fraud after pretending to operate a business in order to receive more money from the government during the coronavirus pandemic.

Raed Saleh, 33, was convicted in the Heidelberg Magistrates Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to three counts of recklessly making a false statement to the Australian Taxation Office in an attempt to receive $6000 in JobKeeper payments.

The Mernda man was fined $3000 and ordered to pay $3000 in compensation and $282 in costs.

According to the ATO, Saleh applied for and lodged two months of JobKeeper claims online, saying he had lost 30 per cent of business revenue – the threshold for the payment – in May and June. He claimed he was a sole trader.

But, the ATO said, he didn’t have a genuine business and already had a job, having agreed to be nominated by his full-time employer for the allowance.

While there are other prosecutions before the court, this is the first conviction in the country for JobKeeper fraud.

The stimulus scheme was set up as a buffer against the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with the aim of supporting businesses to keep people in their jobs.

Saleh received $3000 from the false May 2020 claim, but his June claim was stopped by the ATO when the investigation began.

ATO deputy commissioner Will Day said fraud against the stimulus measures effectively stole from taxpayers at a time when the community needed it the most.

“We know most people are honest, and we work with employers to overcome genuine mistakes,” Mr Day said.

“However, as this case demonstrates, where people deliberately seek to exploit the stimulus measures, we will put a stop to it and apply the full force of the law,”

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