Border day care operator guilty of $3.6m fraud

A FAMILY day care operator behind a multi-million-dollar government rip-off has maintained her innocence right to the very end.

Melissa Higgins has been found guilty of a $3.6 million child care benefits rort despite consistently claiming she had done nothing wrong.

Even as questions arose about the way her business Aussie Giggles was being run, Higgins moved to assure parents everything was fine.

“Aussie Giggles Family Day Care and Education Service is not under investigation,” she wrote in a “letter of reassurance” to families in 2014.

“Aussie Giggles Family Day Care and Education Service is saddened that such ‘slander’ is occurring from this disgruntled employee.

“This matter has been referred to a solicitor to put an end to it all.”

Despite her protestations of innocence, Higgins has been found guilty of 66 counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception.

She had pleaded not guilty and faced a trial by jury, which returned the verdict on Wednesday.

Higgins was also found guilty of 14 charges of using a forged document and one count of dealing with money or property believed to be the proceeds of crime worth $1 million or more.

The East Albury resident had operated day care services from Wodonga homes, including houses in Sexton Place and Castleton Crescent.

She had claimed special child care benefit subsidies and used false documents to justify her claims.

Malina Brown, whose daughter attended Aussie Giggles, said she wanted to see Higgins punished for her actions. 

Melissa Higgins has been found guilty of illegally receiving government benefits of more than $3.6 million through her business Aussie Giggles. 

She has also been found guilty of 14 counts of using a forged documents and dealing with the proceeds of crime. 

“It’s good it’s finally come to an end,” she said.

“Once I found out what was going on I definitely questioned, as a first-time mother, who I left my children with.

“When I had to give evidence, I was disgusted by her claims about why I had had my daughter in care.

“They were absolutely false – basically, it was a complete fabrication.”

Higgins had wrongly claimed benefits for children at risk of serious abuse or neglect. 

Ms Brown said Higgins had herself put the kids in her care at risk.

“I think she should be punished according to the law and not let off lightly,” she said.

“She’s deceived a lot of people.  

“She also put a lot of children in harm’s way by not having the insurance needed to keep the kids safe.”

Higgins will return to the District Court in Sydney on Friday, where her bail will be considered. 

A date for a sentence to be handed down will also be determined. ​

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