Families hunt for missing $3.4m
A SUNSHINE Coast financial adviser faced court yesterday accused of defrauding more than $3 million from 19 families to fund his “decadent” lifestyle.
Shaun Daniel Fitzgerald, 37, allegedly offered “lucrative investment opportunities”, usually to purchase shares in Woodside or Channel Seven, with generous returns in a short period.
Police alleged 19 clients invested money into private accounts which Mr Fitzgerald (pictured) used on “personal living expenses”.
Police objected to Mr Fitzgerald’s bail, saying he was a flight risk, when he faced Maroochydore Magistrates Court yesterday on one count of fraud and 30 counts of passing valueless cheques at Mackay, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
Mr Fitzgerald was granted bail on condition that he surrender his passport, not approach within 100m of an international departure point, report to police three times a week and live with his mother at Doonan.
The bail objection affidavit revealed the alleged fraudster told clients the accounts were attached to financial advice company 360 Asset Management, which had no affiliation to his own company accounts – for RKF Investments and Zero Cost Base – where money was deposited.
It detailed how Mr Fitzgerald allegedly impressed an urgency on clients to reduce the time they had to check the validity of investments.
The objection claimed he would provide valueless cheques to querying clients, 10 to one client, and then make up excuses about why they were dishonoured.
“It will be submitted these cheques were used merely to put off complainants to buy (Mr Fitzgerald) time before he cut ties,” police wrote.
The bail objection also disclosed that he had attended court in Queenstown, in New Zealand, in January for drink-driving and dangerous driving charges.
“He provided information to the court that he was a businessman from Australia who was attempting to set up a property development company in Queenstown,” it read.
“This would suggest that the defendant is likely to attempt to travel to New Zealand for these business interests, making him a high risk of fleeing this jurisdiction.
“Checks with immigration show he has travelled overseas five times since April 1, 2010.
“Checks with Austrac (Australia’s anti-money laundering financing regulator) show some movement of monies to Thailand, New Zealand, the United States and England.”
“This defendant has affected 19 families, leaving some with no financial security,” the objection read.
Police alleged Mr Fitzgerald’s family members had also lost $1.1 million but had not filed complaints.
Lawyer Leigh Rollason said his client had been on holidays with his mother for part of the recent trip.
“White-collar offences of this kind around Australia see people in this position granted bail,” Mr Rollason said.
“The circumstances of this case arise out of the collapse of a business on the Sunshine Coast in early to mid 2010 in the context of the Global Financial Crisis,” he said.
“There have been ongoing proceedings in relation to that from some parties.
“There was a lot of publicity at the time of the collapse.
“Mr Fitzgerald has been under considerable stress from these proceedings.”
Magistrate John Hodgins said “a substantial amount of money” was involved and potential clients would be cautioned by the publicity of the court mention.
The case was adjourned until March 16.