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Police officer abuses office to steal houses

Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission
Date published
September 2020

Relevant impacts: Reputational impact and industry impact.

A 56-year-old female police officer took advantage of her position to steal 6 vacant homes by exploiting the law of adverse possession, more commonly known as "squatter’s rights" (legally becoming the owner of a property after continuous possession or occupation of the property without the permission of its legal owner).

The woman used another employee’s Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) login without his knowledge to unlawfully access information related to vacant properties across Melbourne. She also used her badge to coerce tradesmen into changing locks on the properties.

She pleaded guilty to 9 charges including obtaining property by deception, perjury, and unauthorised access to police information. She was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months in prison.

Related countermeasures

A positive workplace culture can encourage ethical and supportive behaviours while discouraging fraudulent or corrupt activities. Staff will be less able to rationalise fraudulent or corrupt activities where a positive workplace culture exists. A culture built on honesty, transparency and integrity is a key organisational strength that can serve to reduce the risk of fraud. If weak countermeasures are the fuel, a bad culture can be the spark that ignites fraud and corruption.

Use declarations or acknowledgments to both communicate and confirm that a person understands their obligations and the consequences for non-compliance. The declaration could be written or verbal, and should encourage compliance and deter fraud.

Audit logging is system-generated audit trails of staff, client or third party interactions that help with fraud investigations.

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