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DUPED investors watched profits soar on fake online accounts while their money was really being plunged into a luxury motor yacht.
A pensioner and a young bikie are among those accused of being behind the alleged $3 million “cold call” operation, which operated out of rented offices in the heart of the Gold Coast.
Police charged 74-year-old Robert Gordon Stewart on Wednesday with offences including fraud and money laundering and seized a BMW convertible from his upmarket home in Clayfield, in Brisbane’s inner north.
Detective Senior Sergeant Jason Gough, of the Organised Crime Gangs Group, said victims believed they were trading in markets such as commodities and foreign exchange rates.
“When you became a member you were given a user ID and a password and you were allowed to log on to a website,” Sgt Gough told The Sunday Mail. “People would look at these and usually see the trading on their account was showing it to be very successful.
“That sometimes induced people to put even more money into the scheme, thinking the promises of healthy profits were coming through. But we say what they were actually seeing when they were looking at those computer screens was just fiction; it was just being created by people with IT skills who were connected to the syndicate.
“In reality, what we say is … that money was just withdrawn in cash and no trading took place. Instead of being traded as they believed, the money was simply withdrawn and used to pay off a very expensive boat.”
Police say Stewart operated out of an office in Tedder Ave, Main Beach.
He allegedly spent money from the scheme to buy and renovate a $750,000, 70-foot motor launch, “Montage”, before hastily selling it at a loss at auction with no reserve just months after police searched it.
Former Finks outlaw motorcycle gang member Jacob Stanes, 24, has been charged with fraud for allegedly being part of the same syndicate.
Stanes was a director of telemarketing companies Keystone Finance Pty Ltd and Prestige Capital Australia Pty Ltd when they allegedly defrauded investors between 2014 and 2015 from offices in Cavill Ave and Ferny Ave, Surfers Paradise.
“We’ve been speaking to people Australia-wide and they all tell the same story,” Sgt Gough said.
“At some point they’re all going about their daily business and they get a telephone call on their home landline or their mobile from somebody who simply says, ‘is that so and so, my name is, and I work for a company’.
“I’m sure we’ve all been at home and copped those kinds of phone calls.”
He added: “There are so many different variations to this type of scheme, but essentially the schemes are all the same. They will, through a series of conversations with victims, convince them to part with their money.
“Ultimately, the money is lost because whatever people are led to believe they are buying or investing in, it either doesn’t work or it doesn’t exist.”