Central Qld's ‘investor wolf’ swindled $5.6m from 41 victims
ABOUT 40 people who dreamt of early retirement with healthy finances have been forced back to work after being swindled out of $5.6 million by a 'financial investment wolf'.
The victims' average age was 56 with the oldest aged 89. The highest amount handed over was just over $1M by a man who pooled funds of family members to invest.
The 'financial investment wolf' - Cameron Douglas Scott - was sentenced in Rockhampton District Court on August 17.
The 41-year-old father-of-three swindled $5.6m from 41 people over 4.5 years between June 6, 2012, and January 8, 2017, operating under the business name Investment Cafe.
The victims requested The Morning Bulletin not publish their names or identify them.
Crown prosecutor Joshua Philips, who handed up 16 victim impact statements to Judge Michael Burnett for consideration during sentencing determination, described the offending as a Ponzi scheme which left victims devastated and forced them back to work at the end of their working lives.
"Some of your conduct was predatory," Judge Burnett said.
"Your wickedness has significantly impacted on the lives that you have touched.
"The loses will be difficult for most to recover from because of their age and the current economic climate."
He said one victim was approached about his superannuation at a time the victim was suffering family issues.
The victim had been made redundant and Scott had an affair with the victim's former wife.
Judge Burnett said another victim was dealing with his wife's terminal cancer, which Scott knew about, when he swindled them of money.
He said another victim pooled more than $1m from family to 'invest' in Scott's scheme.
Judge Burnett said many of the victims were hard working folk who had worked hard to provide for their retirement.
He spoke of a 60-year-old victim who had to return to working in the mines to rebuild his retirement fund.
Another victim, in their 70s, has continued working in his career instead of retiring when he should have.
The victims included a couple who owned multiple businesses, a real estate agent, a miner and a facilities manager at a school.
One victim, Glen, verbally addressed Judge Burnett about the impact of this on him and his family.
He said he and his family were led to believe Scott was both genuine and upright in his business operations.
"Through meetings with him in attendance with other investors, I was prompted to invest with him by his convincing words and his seemly genuine participation in financing overseas charity organisations such as extraction and care of children from the sex trafficking industry," Glen said.
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He said Scott told him at one point the Australian Taxation Office had frozen his trading account and he was unable to pay out to investors, in particular two investors who "knew where he lived" and Scott was fearful of physical harm that may happen to his family.
Glen said he lent Scott money to assist, but the loan was never paid back.
"I am now aware that as a victim of his fraudulent acts involving much lies and deceit, Mr Scott was portraying to be an angel of light but in reality, was a financial investment wolf in sheep's clothing," he said.
"These examples of fraud events have caused me to be extremely reluctant and indeed very hesitant to involve myself in financial investment opportunities afforded by registered and proven service providers.
"Because of this loss, I have taken up other work."
Glen said he had planned to do volunteer work when he retired and "not be reliant upon the already overburdened social security system".
"I understand from the results of the prosecution's financial analysis, there is no money available for restitution by Scott," he said.
"I sincerely ask on behalf of myself, my family and all victims, some who have lost their home, others their life savings from this fraud; that the sentencing be dealt with the utmost severity of which it deserves."
The court heard $2.2m had been repaid, with a $3.4m deficit.
Defence lawyer Frank Richards tendered six references to the court.
He said his client was raised in a strict Christian environment with his father being a pastor in many churches.
Mr Richards said Scott had worked in the mining industry but had more recently been looking after his parents whose health was ailing.
"They rely upon him now for mobility," he said.
Mr Richards said Scott had separated from his wife of 17 years and mother of his three children.
He said Scott had re-partnered, with his new partner currently pregnant.
"He did not initially start out to defraud," Mr Richards said.
"He believed he could assist others."
He said as time went on, he lost money invested, and the scheme unravelled.
"At this point, he became increasingly desperate," Mr Richards said.
He said Scott believed given time, he would have been able to provide the return he promised investors.
Mr Phillips took issue with a section in an apology letter by the defendant handed to prosecution just before court started.
He said Scott's letter stated he was apologetic for his "irresponsible behaviour".
Mr Phillips said accidentally running into the back of another car while distracted was 'irresponsible behaviour', but fraud was not.
He said the crown felt Scott had "misapprehended the gravity" of his offending and impact on victims.
"What you ought to be remorseful about is your criminal behaviour," Judge Burnett said.
He said this was a very serious example of fraud.
"You were plainly out of your depth despite claims you had been involved in this type of trading for years prior," Judge Burnett told Scott.
"You made promises of extraordinary returns."
Judge Burnett said the funds were invested by Scott, and lost, and then he embarked on a Ponzi scheme, using some of the funds to pay out earlier investors.
He said Scott put the funds into a personal account rather than a trust fund (the normal process).
Judge Burnett said evidence showed Scott used the money to pay his rent, credit cards and other living expenses.
He said when police went to find him at a flat at Emerald, he answered the door and gave a false name, telling police no one by the name Cameron Douglas Scott lived at the unit.
He was arrested and charged.
Judge Burnett sentenced Scott, who had pleaded guilty, to nine years prison, declared 61 days presentence custody and set parole eligibility at June 16, 2023.