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Principal accused of $9m fraud

The former principal of Djarragun College in far north Queensland is alleged to have defrauded the government of $8.9 million to invest in her school.

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Police believe a school principal accused of defrauding state and federal governments of almost $9 million did not pocket any of the money for herself and instead re-invested it in her indigenous college.

Former Djarragun College principal Jean Illingworth, 65, allegedly inflated the number of students at her school to obtain an extra $5.4 million in Commonwealth funding and $4.5 million in state funding.

Police believe she did not take any of the money for herself and spent all of the money she allegedly defrauded the governments of to buy resources for the far north Queensland college.

A police source told Fairfax Media the scheme was quite "sophisticated" and "time consuming".

Ms Illingworth, a former Senior Queenslander of the Year, allegedly did not take students off the enrolment rolls when they left the college. There are also allegations some of the students on the rolls did no exist at all.

The school received funding based on how many students attended the school.

The police investigation into the multi-million dollar fraud was triggered by the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board which made a complaint in 2011 about funding irregularities.

The board helped the police in their 18 month investigation. Officers were also assisted by the the Commonwealth Department of Education and Employment and Workplace Relations.

Ms Illingworth was stood down from her job on full-pay when the investigation started and has maintained her innocence from the beginning.

Her lawyer refused to comment and Ms Illingworth has not been returning calls.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has been in talks with the college about repayment options and a spokesman said staff were working hard to ensure the college was "not adversely affected".

In 2009 Ms Illingworth was named Senior Queensland of the Year for transforming a "once dysfunctional Indigenous school into a much admired model of success".

Ms Illingworth has just returned from a volunteer trip to Mozambique where she worked with children in a slum school on the north coast.

She has been charged with one count of fraud – dishonestly induce to deliver property under the Queensland criminal code, and one count of obtaining financial advantage by deception under the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

Ms Illingworth is scheduled to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court on January 31.