A glamorous businesswoman has been charged after allegedly swindling up to $15million dollars in a daycare centre fraud scheme that used ‘phantom children’ to rort taxpayers.
Ola Ouda, 42, was rounded up by Australian Federal Police in Melbourne, along with her partner Amjad Shehada, 47, and three other co-accused after a year-long investigation.
Police allege the jet-setting owner of Prime Family Day Care – who regularly posts photos on her Instagram showcasing her lavish lifestyle – is part of a criminal syndicate defrauding childcare subsidies and the COVID-19 stimulus package.
She can be seen on her social media accounts living it up on luxurious overseas holidays and posing next to sports cars.
AFP officers moved in on Ms Ouda on Wednesday – bursting through the door of her Doncaster East home.
Simultaneous search warrants were also carried out at 10 other premises across eight suburbs in Victoria and New South Wales.
More than 150 AFP members and 110 government officials – from Services Australia, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and the Victorian Department of Education and training – were part of the 11-month sting operation.
Following the dramatic raids, investigators spoke to more than 70 Melbourne family day care educators and parents considered to be persons of interest in connection to the alleged fraud network.
Police said Ms Ouda’s business received more Federal Government payments than any other child care provider in Australia by making claims for children who didn’t actually attend the service.
Investigators also allege the wealthy couple rorted the JobKeeper program by claiming $2.4million in bogus payments through a restaurant they run.
‘We allege the two main co-accused of the fraud network have funded grand and luxurious lifestyles on money swindled from Australian taxpayers,’ AFP Southern Command Commander of Investigations, Todd Hunter, said.
‘Money that belongs in the hands of our community, to help care for some of our most vulnerable, we allege has instead been used to foot the bill for an extensive real estate portfolio, spent on properties both here in Melbourne and overseas, along with a number of luxurious holidays.’
Ms Ouda founded Prime Family Day Care back in 2013 after having worked in the industry for more than 15 years.
Ms Ouda and her partner, along with a 47-year-old man, plus a 39-year-old senior office employee and one other, have been charged with a litany of fraud offences including conspiracy to cause a loss to the Commonwealth.
Police have now suspended the day care centre’s license to claim the Child Care Subsidy.
The AFP said: ‘It could take many months to work out exactly how much has allegedly been stolen,’ and that they expect more charges to follow.
The accused will appear in court in June, 2021.