NSW childcare fraudster denied bail

Rebekah Ison

A NSW childcare director jailed over more than $3.6 million worth of fraudulently obtained federal government payments has been denied bail pending an appeal.

Former Albury resident Melissa Jade Higgins fraudulently charged families a "ridiculous" $180 an hour, or around $9000 a week, at her Aussie Giggles childcare centre because she knew the government would foot the bill under the Special Child Care Benefit.

District Court judge Donna Woodburne ruled against her release on Wednesday, saying special circumstances had not been established to justify bail ahead of an appeal hearing.

Higgins looked distressed and hung her head during the bail application at the Downing Centre.

Her barrister Luke Brasch had submitted Higgins, who had been on bail until her sentence, was at no risk of absconding.

In handing down a minimum four-year jail sentence last week, Judge Woodburne said Higgins had been motivated by greed when she committed offences relating to 14 children between September 2013 and March 2015.

The claims Higgins made were false because the children did not attend the centre on the dates claimed, the number of hours claimed was false or the hourly rate was more than she was permitted to claim.

"Ms Higgins intentionally abused a system designed to assist children in need," Judge Woodburne had said during sentencing.

"She was motivated by greed."

Higgins was convicted of 81 offences in November, including 66 of obtaining financial advantage by deception.

Her lawyers filed a notice of intention to appeal shortly after the jury's verdicts.

Judge Woodburne previously told the court Higgins forged a statutory declaration, a letter purportedly from medical practitioners and a document from a supposed child safety worker on a department letterhead.

The court heard Higgins claimed her high hourly fees would have applied regardless of whether the children were subject to the SCCB.

"These parents were not royalty, or movie stars or mining magnates," Judge Woodburne said.

"It was a ridiculous and exorbitant fee claimed precisely because and only because the government was footing the bill."

The SCCB is supposed to allow children at risk of abuse or neglect, or from a household experiencing financial hardship, to access early learning and childcare.

Higgins, who the judge said had shown no remorse, was sentenced to a maximum seven years, but will be eligible for parole in May 2021.