HomeNewsAustraliaAustralia's Commonwealth Games baton bearer, John Coutis, sentenced for welfare fraud

Australia’s Commonwealth Games baton bearer, John Coutis, sentenced for welfare fraud

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Motivational speaker and Commonwealth Games baton bearer, John Coutis, has been sentenced to five years jail for welfare fraud, but was immediately released on parole.

John Coutis, who was convicted of defrauding taxpayers, was sentenced on Monday at Southport Court in Queensland.

Coutis had failed to declare almost $1.5 million he earned as a motivational speaker for more than a decade while receiving a disability support pension.

He received more than $130,000 in welfare benefits, when he was entitled to only about $30,000.

John Coutis is a well-known motivational speaker.

Coutis, who admitted lying to Centrelink, was caught out after authorities identified him as a frequent international traveller.

He’s made at least 37 international speaking trips and has spoken to more than six million people at events that have included attendees such as Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela.

More than a dozen good character references were tendered to the court, including references from Alan Jones, Dawn Fraser and Phil Gould.

Judge Porter said while he respected the referees’ opinions, he disagreed with some.

“A number of references indicate this was not an act of dishonesty, but this was,” the judge said.

“I am conscious of the disability support pension not being enough to support people on disability but thousands of others have been able to comply … very few would have been able to earn $1.5 million like you have.

“The welfare system depends on the honesty of claimants and this type of offending undermines the welfare system.”

Parts of his autobiography was also used as evidence in court, including how he was born with spina bifida and had both legs amputated at the age of 17.

Judge Porter said part of the reason for immediate parole was that the prison was unable to cater to Coutis’ disability.

Outside of court, Coutis apologised for his actions and asked for his privacy.

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