Koffels Successfully Defends Centrelink Claim on Behalf of TV Host

Sydney Morning Herald

Broadcast:Thursday 15 January 2009

For a while it seemed that the host of The Biggest Loser was going to live up to the title of her reality television show by being exposed as a welfare cheat.

But Ajay Rochester, who was once an overweight pensioner called Lee Ann Towler, completed another transformation yesterday from “biggest loser” to “biggest victim”: a single mother, whose only crime was financial untidiness, making her a high profile scapegoat in the hands of overzealous bureaucrats.

Rochester, 39, pleaded guilty in the Downing Centre Local Court to 23 offences for claiming a Centrelink benefit from October 1999 to December 2005, even though she was not entitled to the full payment for about 16 weeks during that period.

But she escaped a criminal record for welfare fraud under the controversial legal provision that gives magistrates the discretion not to impose convictions and was ordered into a $1500 good behaviour bond