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How financial planner's million dollar scam unravelled

Former financial planner Darren John Wise's million dollar fraud started to unravel 17 years after he started it.

It began in 1997, a year after he started working for Financial Planning Services Australia at Kawana Waters.

Maroochydore District Court heard on Monday that Wise, 47, forged power of attorney documents so he could use clients' money as collateral to open four margin loan accounts between 1997 and 2006.

Two were in his own name, one was in his ex-wife's name and another was under a concocted name.

Wise used the securities of five groups of customers, most of them elderly.

He used one of the customer's details twice.

All up he drew down $1,070,700 from the loans with St George Bank.

Commonwealth prosecutor Michael Woodford said Wise became a managing director of Financial Planning Services Australia in 2000 and continued in the role until he sold his interest in the business in 2008.

He was also a member of the Financial Planning Association of Australia and at one stage had between 400 and 500 clients.

Wise continued working in financial planning and was at Ord Minnett in 2014 when it became apparent his scheme was unravelling.

Mr Woodford said Wise used the defrauded funds to trade on the stock exchange, pay losses on other accounts and pay off debts.

"We are not dealing with an aberration here - it is eight-and-a-half years," Mr Woodford said.

He said Wise provided misleading portfolio assessments to his clients.

The court heard Wise had used nearly half a million dollars of legitimate funds he received from the sale of his business in 2008 to pay down loans so three of the five lots of money he had fraudulently used as collateral could be returned to their rightful owners.

The loaning bank ultimately ended up bearing the loss, compensating the remaining two clients.

That loss was calculated as a little more than $773,000.

Wise's clients had started questioning him in 2014 after he could no longer pay dividends on the securities they had trusted him with.

Wise contacted the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in July last year to tell them of his scheme and effectively dob himself in.

The court heard he was going to be caught one way or another.

Defence barrister Katarina Prskalo said Wise had served in the army between 1986 and 1992 before getting into financial planning in 1993.

Ms Prskalo said Wise made significant losses early in his career and spent years trying to make it right.

"He thought he could correct the problem," Ms Prskalo said.

She said he did not live an extravagant lifestyle, owned no property and was now bankrupt.

Judge Gary Long accepted Wise was remorseful for his actions and had always intended to make good on his mistakes.

But he said he had put the significant assets of his clients at risk.

Judge Long noted Wise was now pursuing qualifications to potentially work in the fitness industry.

Wise was sentenced to seven years in jail, to be eligible for parole in July 2018 after having served 20 months.

Topics:  editors picks fraud kawana waters st george bank sunshine coast



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