In April 2012 in a weekend edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, Greg Bearup wrote about a respected NSW stock and station agent who, to quote from the Herald, had the "wool pulled over his eyes".
Much of what I set out has been taken from his article, although you can access the original article here.
Bill was one of his town’s leading citizens. Unfortunately he got caught up in a loan scam run by a Denis Fing.
Apparently back in 2003, with an initial promise of "ten fold returns", Bill began putting funds into Fing’s NAB account. He eventually transferred his entire life savings, more than $2.5 million and took nearly $1 million of his clients’ money from his company’s trust fund.
Bill apparently believed he could get his money back and then repay the trust fund, but unfortunately that did not happen.
In 2010 his business was wound up and in February 2012 he pleaded guilty to fraud. He was sentenced to 18 months jail with a non-parole period of 8 months.
Bill was apparently first introduced to Fing in 2003 by good friends. Fing had been doing some accountancy work for the friends.
Fing apparently told Bill a tale about a business foundation called "African Ventureism" which Fing had set up to help the poor and displaced.
Fing had even been nominated by the late "King El Kamara" as "the executor to his Last Will and Testament".
Fing needed investors to help liberate substantial assets held in Europe by wealthy Africans, and with a percentage of their billions, he would fund charitable deeds, and investors like Bill would also be rewarded.
Investors would receive good returns and also help alleviate pain and suffering in Africa.
When Bill’s funds ran out he began juggling money and essentially dug a deeper hole for himself by accessing his clients’ trust monies.
Bill apparently then contemplated suicide and headed for Sydney to the Gap, but fortunately saw a Sydney psychiatrist who saved him from suicide.
The psychiatrist described him as a country person who "conducted his business on a handshake", which is of course the way many country people transact business.
The article also mentioned a Brisbane doctor who lost several hundred thousand dollars to Fing. Bill was not the only one caught by Fing’s web of deceit.
The article said that five farmers were paid back their debts from a stock and station agent’s indemnity scheme, but at least one victim remained unpaid at the time of the article. Bill’s wife said they were working hard to repay all the money.
The family home was sold, and the family is contemplating leaving the country town where they have lived most their life.
Unfortunately Denis Fing is still free, no doubt scamming other victims in Africa where he moved and elsewhere, having left behind many Australian victims.
Bill was a pillar of the local town, well regarded and liked, and he and his family have suffered a massive trauma as a result of the scam. Valued clients and friends have also suffered from Bill’s actions.
Hopefully though, some good may come out of his story if others avoid scams by hearing Bill’s story or alternatively seek help sooner rather than later if already caught up in a scam.
What a difficult case for the Magistrate. Clearly the person before him was, for all intents and purposes, a good person caught in a scam, financially ruined and traumatised. However his actions also caused severe stress, strain and financial problems for clients.
While no real benefit will be derived by Bill going to jail, that has to be weighed against the need to deter others, and take into account other victims’ trauma.
If anyone reading this article knows of someone who may be in Bill’s position they should encourage them to see a lawyer who may be able to help them out of their predicament, or at least ensure they do not dig a deeper hole. When you consult a lawyer what you tell your lawyer, and the lawyer’s advice to you, are privileged and cannot be disclosed without your consent. An experienced lawyer is likely to have dealt with, or know someone, who has dealt with similar situations in the past.