Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge, Scam Scam?

Say No More

What is it with scam-artists who foolishly choose to deny the truth instead of acknowledge the error of their ways? And are too arrogant to mend them.

I decided to publicly share my experience with so-called finance and investment professionals (Wrong Road to Real Wealth Part 1 & 2) in the hope that it may help others avoid a similar fate. One of the key players is now crying foul and claiming that the majority of my comments are false.

Facts are facts. My account of the disappointing, eye-opening experience is based on fact – and hindsight. My primary grievance is not against the complainant. Or his now defunct company (Real Wealth). But rather his cohorts (The ATP and Audrn Group) who got away with fleecing many investors largely because the complacent and under-resourced Australian government agencies such as the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), let them.

While mainstream media is unlikely (or unable) to report on how ASIC really operates because it would breach their Gag Policy, we are fortunate to have shackle-free, independent journalists such as Michael West in our midst (and friends like Kayla Sharpe* who emailed me the link to his website.)

Enjoy this enraging snippet from Michael West’s comprehensive Royal Commission report: ‘Hayne Says Banks Have Corporate Watchdog In The Bag

Enforceable Undertakings seem to be an ASIC  favourite,  no matter how big or small the company. How many convicted humans are sitting in prison cells for lesser crimes?

The looming threat of a nasty legal letter accusing me of defamation tempted me to retreat and either fictionalise my story or simply remove my writings from cyberspace for the simple sake of peace.

Various friends vehemently disagreed. They urged me to stay strong and true. A particularly mischievous friend asked if I had heard of a ‘letter of note’ concerning a complaint against Private Eye magazine by scam-artist James Arkell. I said no and Googled it. Turned out to be just the tonic!

The below ‘Arkell v. Pressdram’ (publisher of Private Eye) letters are taken from More Letters of Note.

I laughed out loud when I read that Arkell withdrew his complaint almost immediately after Private Eye published the exchange of letters, and the magazine has since responded to idle legal threats by referring the authors to the above reply.

Letters of Note also states that “there was no “case” legally, despite the name by which the dispute is now known.”

Worth bottling. And sharing far and wide.

‘Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more?’ Monty Python

Thank you to my friends, Private Eye and Letters of Note for helping me find the courage to stay strong and true to the truth.

 

Linda Summer

Scribe, Lost For Words

*Real name not used

gangsters

Wrong Road To Real Wealth Pt. 2

Oh ATP and Audrn Group Where Art Thou?

One of my favourite writing mentors is Robert McKee:

“In a world of lies and liars, we don’t need writers adding to the slop. More than ever, the world needs to hear your truth, harvested from the midnight of your soul and poured onto the page, stage or screen. More than ever, your insights must be shone into the darkest corners of the human condition.”

writerMr McKee’s sage advice is my guiding light as I continue to search for answers surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Australian financial services providers The ATP Australia Pty Ltd (former Corporate Authorised Representative) and Audrn Group Pty Ltd (former Australian Financial Services Licensee.)

While I have far happier things to write about than being ripped-off, I am driven by the unacceptable fact that it’s way too easy for Australian-based financial scammers to steal millions of dollars and simply disappear. What sort of system allows white collar scammers to escape accountability for scandalously perverse actions that impact the lives of many?

scamsSadly, Twitter posts about ‘trending’ investment scams make it sound like the ‘new normal.’

While I don’t expect to be reimbursed for the superannuation losses incurred due to poor judgement during a vulnerable phase of my life, I do expect the complacent and dysfunctional regulatory system to address its failures and tighten up its processes. Ensure silk-suited gangsters are effectively put out of business and prevented from preying upon more unsuspecting, vulnerable people across the nation.

 “I don’t care about ‘who licensed who’ to scam honest Australians in pursuit of financial  prosperity and independence. In my view, they are all white collar criminals and must be held accountable for their despicable actions. And this over-governed country urgently needs to ensure our law enforcement agencies are adequately resourced so they can do their jobs properly.” Linda Summer

Since penning ‘Wrong Road to Real Wealth’, I have received an avalanche of most welcome and insightful information. An email from savvy, single mother turned private investigator Kayla Sharpe* thanked me for starting a blog that exposes ‘cold-calling boiler room forex gangsters.’

Choice words reminiscent of The Wolf of Wall Street opening scenes, deftly penned by screenwriter Terence Winter:

GENE HACKMAN (V.O.)

The world of investing can be a jungle.

WE SEE a charging, snorting BULL.

GENE HACKMAN (V.O.)

Bulls.

WE SEE a ferocious, growling BEAR.

GENE HACKMAN (V.O.)

Bears.   Danger at every turn.

Pretentious CLASSICAL MUSIC kicks in.

GENE HACKMAN (V.O.)

That’s why we at Stratton Oakmont
pride ourselves on being the best.

 

While the Kiwi Cartel players are nowhere near as clever or charismatic as the notorious Jordan Belfort, the film’s seedy boiler room scenes mirror their sordid strategies and standards. And you could easily substitute ‘Stratton Oakmont’ for any of the cartel’s company names.

fraudIt’s not good enough that The ATP and Audrn Group got away with it while David Orth walked free with a token slap on the wrist after running amok with millions of dollars of other people’s money for so many years.

On 16 February 2018, ASIC announced that it “accepted an Enforceable Undertaking from (Real Wealth) director Mr David Orth under which he will cease to provide financial services for five years. In addition, Mr Orth will make a community benefit payment in the amount of $400,000 to Financial Literacy Australia to support the financial capability of vulnerable people.”

When I learned that enforceable undertakings are ‘generally accepted by ASIC as an alternative to civil or administrative action’ where there has been a contravention of legislation, I wondered what it would take for boiler room operators to wind up in an Australian court of law. Australia’s token Royal Commission is seeing executive banking criminals getting away with a slap on the wrist and a splash of public shaming. Meanwhile, back in Iceland, elite banking criminals are licking their wounds in prison.

Kayla recently emailed Melbourne-based ASIC lawyer Justin Black* to inform him that she has submitted information to the Royal Commission about fraudulent activities in Queensland that have been repeatedly swept under the carpet by the Brisbane ASIC office. She also queried why it took six years for ASIC to ‘finally slap Orth with that piddly punishment.’ As expected, she has not received a response.

How timely is former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chair Alan Fels’ recent call for ASIC to be stripped of its power over banks and see them handed to the ACCC: “- a move that would send a chill through banking boardrooms, which he said have become too cosy with ASIC.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-09/former-accc-boss-alan-fels-slams-asic/10092864

Fitzgerald Inquiry One Day, Cartel Paradise The Next

According to Kayla’s investigations, Orth’s Queensland-based boiler room operations date back to 2012 and many of the dubious operators were New Zealand Nationals, aptly tagged the ‘Kiwi Cartel’.

Knowing little about cartels, a quick Google search led me to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

(In my view, the Kiwi’s didn’t seem sophisticated enough to earn the title of ‘cartel,’ so I tagged them the ‘Dubiosos’. But I digress. Back to the real story).

Allegedly referred to as ‘the boss,’ Orth was in cahoots with Gold Coast based Winchester Securities who were conveniently licensed to his Brisbane based company Got Money FX.

Kayla entered the picture as a ‘naïve foreigner new to the Gold Coast.’ Initially conned by Winchester Securities salesman Jake Kleeman*, knowing full well she was a single mother, Kayla soon woke up to the elaborate scam and began gathering evidence to expose them.

hornet's nest“I uncovered a veritable hornet’s nest which led to a life-changing journey for me,” said Kayla. “When the realisation hit that ASIC’s Brisbane-based investigators were not only horrendously incompetent, but actually criminally complicit in failing to pursue the information I and other victims had provided them, I toddled off to Sydney to qualify as a private investigator with arguably Australia’s top trainer so that I could help other victims of financial fraud.”

September 2012, Kayla emailed information to Helen Winton* at the Brisbane ASIC office. One would expect the email to raise alarm bells but she never received a response. Zip. If I had ignored an email containing serious allegations of fraud during my time in the public sector, I would have been reprimanded, unless, of course, I had been instructed to do otherwise. To clarify, here is a sample of one of Kayla’s emails:

“Dear Helen,

I have evidence in the form of the telemarketing script proving that Dean Hager* is running at least three fraudulent internet scam companies.  He changed Winchester’s trading name on Monday 3 September to Global Income Solutions (GIS). I noticed on their newly-created website that they are licensed to a company in Brisbane called Got Money FX, as is Dean’s other company Magnum FX.  They are most likely also a dubious operation. Avestra Capital is seemingly out of the picture now, evidenced by Winchester’s altered partners webpage.  It is suddenly a licensed rep of Got Money FX too.

My friend Peter Daley* was present in the office on his first day as a telesales consultant, when Dean and Michael Sanders* discussed a catchy name to replace Winchester Securities.  This is obviously because they were losing potential ‘investors’/victims due to the numerous scam reports on Google.  I spoke to one of their potential victims, whose name and number appeared on the mobile phone which Peter was allocated.

The ‘client’ was told that Home IT was affiliated to Magnum FX. What my friend Peter witnessed during the week working in a front office, was both Dean and Michael dealing constantly with irate ‘clients’ on the phone and on numerous occasions, Dean told staff to tell clients that he was ‘no longer with Winchester’.

Dean managed to convince another South African immigrant to part with $18,000 for their ‘lifetime package’, convincing this man that it would be well worth his while to borrow the funds and another $10,000 for his trading account, against his mortgage, as he would be making substantial monthly profits to cover the repayments. 

Peter listened to the entire transaction on Wednesday and is prepared to testify in court that Dean is running a fraudulent operation in Surfers Paradise, in the form of Winchester/GIS and Magnum FX which is on the 3rd Floor of the same salubrious building.  I took photos of the street which they purport to be ‘a large street’ in the script to counteract clients’ questioning that they had previously dealt with a forex company called Winchester with the same address. I also got my son to take a photo of their reception area on Friday, with the name of Winchester still in existence.

The script is full of blatant lies, including the fact that they have operated using a ‘proven system’ for a few years etc. There are definitely no live traders in the company. They are using trading software.

Best wishes

Kayla Sharpe”

Kayla offered to post the scripts to Helen and provide her with bank details for the new shell company GIS. She also requested advice about how to proceed with having Dean Hager prosecuted. Was Helen’s failure to respond to Kayla a case of negligent incompetence or simply part of their ‘under the carpet’ policy? ASIC’s rotten carpet is surely bulging by now.

Several months later, Kayla emailed ASIC lawyer Justin Black again, who, under pressure from a Western Australian MP representing Kiwi Cartel victim Ben Harker*, reopened the investigation into Winchester/GIS/Got Money FX. (Kayla informed me that Harker was the first person to publish his story on various internet scam sites despite numerous threats and also provided the link between Darren’s Winchester Securities/Trading IT/ATP to disgraced Queensland detective Mick Featherstone):

“Dear Justin

I believe that you were contacted and provided information by MP Paul Lockett* on behalf of Stephen Walker* in Perth, regarding Winchester Securities in December 2012. Stephen and I, along with many other people from around Australia, were scammed by this Australian Financial Service license holder last year.  As I was contacted last week by yet another victim who likewise, reported them to ASIC to no avail, I felt compelled to send you a copy of one of my many emails to Helen Winton in Brisbane. I provided her with the telemarketing scripts of this company (which I believe were supplied to you).

I do hope that you don’t mind my contacting you, however in the interests of justice for the mostly pensioners, and like me, trusting foreign nationals who were extorted by this company based on their holding an AFS licence, any assistance would be much appreciated.

Best wishes

Kayla Sharpe”

Breach? What Breach?

When I read that Kayla received a curt response reiterating ASIC’s finding that they were ‘not committing any breaches’ despite evidence clearly pointing to ‘brazen fraud on a federal scale’, it naturally deepened my concerns about the competency and relevance of Australia’s so-called corporate regulator. It also vindicated my ‘what’s the point’ attitude toward writing to ASIC about The ATP and Audrn Group.

And how interesting to learn that the Orth operators allegedly resurfaced as Trading IT/ATP, with Kayla’s nemesis Kleeman as the sales front man yet again. Then they allegedly morphed into True Wealth which lasted less than a month before evolving into Real Wealth.

So Orth’s gang ran ATP?  During my association with ATP and Real Wealth, both parties gave the impression they had no association at all apart from Real Wealth being a ‘standard referral’ for new customers because they specialised in SMSFs.

scamHow do people learn to lie so well? Bad parenting? I had some great chats with The ATP and Real Wealth guys before waking up to their wicked ways.

Orth even made the effort to meet his clients in person. When he paid me a personal visit in Adelaide in March 2014 to sign some SMSF documents, I sensed something shifty about the gangly, ill-suited man but my rose-tinted glasses helped me banish the thought.

Bring on the Gangster-Busters

On a happier note, I was pleased to learn that despite being subjected to a bribery attempt, legal and personal threats, Kayla’s perseverance paid off. With the assistance of ABC Four Corners journalists, they eventually linked some of the Orth gang members to a multi million-dollar fraudulent operation run by former Queensland detective Mick Featherstone who was charged with fraud in 2015.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-24/mick-featherstone-former-detective-arrested-boiler-room-fraud/7194738.

A Sydney based private investigator also helped Kayla by taking her evidence to the Crime and Corruption Commission. The combined efforts resulted in the seizure of two  members’ lavish assets. The last Kayla heard, one of them ended up working at a jewellery shop, the tag-along chickadee scored a job as a stripper while her husband may have absconded back to New Zealand.

Phew! How easy is it for boiler room ‘dubiosos’ to reinvent themselves and register successive business names in Australia? Having had scant experience establishing a business, I wondered whether members took turns to register businesses in their name to avoid red flags (assuming red flags exist) or if they befriend rogue public servants willing to turn a blind eye in return for their reward. Perhaps public servants simply don’t give a shite about fraudsters. One cannot help but ponder such possibilities.

The Avalanche of Truth Keeps Rolling In

Just when I thought it was safe to conclude my blog, Aussie Scam Alerts informed me about a post they were forced to remove in 2014 concerning the questionable operations of financial services provider AT Partnerships. An intimidating legal letter described their client as a ‘market leader in providing professional trading services’ and steadfastly refuted claims about them being a scam operator.

justicePerhaps the law firm should have asked more questions about the AT Partnerships investment scheme but then, why would they? Money talks incredibly loudly in the legal realm, so why bother digging at all?

For all I know, the law firm shared an office in the same building as the Kiwis. (Or the Russians. The Mexicans. The Wolf himself – Jordan Belfort. The Gold Coast really is a gangster’s paradise these days.)

AT Partnerships allegedly spruiked managed ‘live’ trading packages starting from $7,999 to $16,999 and shared the same Gold Coast business address as Trading IT and The ATP, both of which sold similar schemes allegedly run by trading software.

How interesting that AT Partnerships established themselves in June 2014 and became an Authorised Representative for AFSL holder Jade Capital Partners in late July 2014. As Aussie Scam Alerts rightly stated, ‘in reality, they had no ‘live track record to speak of.’ They are also allegedly linked to the now insolvent Winchester Securities.

Did Jade Capital Partners make a habit of partnering with Cartels or was this just a one-off collaboration? This development prompted me to Google AT Partnerships and Jade Capital Partners to see if they, too, had disappeared from cyberspace.

The AT Partnerships search produced nil results while Jade Capital Partners produced evidence of an active website (which means little in cyberworld) and an ASIC Notice of Application For Wind Up Order.

jade capital partnersThe notice stated that the application was commenced by the plaintiff Veridian Markets Pty Ltd on 08/09/2017 and scheduled to be heard at the Federal Court of NSW at 11AM, 18 October 2017.

The notice concluded with the following statement: ‘This notice does not mean that the company was wound up. To check whether the company was wound up following publication of this notice, search the ASIC database using the ASIC Connect function on ASIC’s website.’

I clicked on the ASIC Connect function link but was led to an error message and instruction to contact ASIC for more information. Pardon my cynicism, but given what I have learned about ASIC’s ‘under the carpet’ policy with the Queensland Kiwi’s, I wonder if Jade Capital Partners enjoyed similar treatment. I immediately emailed Veridian Markets to enquire the fate of Jade Capital Partners and received an email requesting my phone number which I provided. I am still waiting for the call.

The Ones That Got Away

In closing, it still peeves me that ATP and Audrn got away without paying me the promised sum of $14,999  before 1 January 2016 as per the signed Deed of Settlement. To recap, ATP paid me $200 in May 2015 before disappearing like a puff of rancid smoke.

AFSL holders Audrn and Jade Capital initially played ‘pass the hotcake’ regarding who was responsible for the Deed of Settlement. Jade Capital Partners behaved reasonably well and agreed to pay back my minimal lost trading monies while Audrn Group did a runner.

Houdini would be jealous of these guys.

Golden Haired Boys With A Golden Ticket Licence

In hindsight, ATP and Jade Capital Partners must have presented extremely well to ASIC. In July 2014, ATP zealously announced that they had been granted a Managed Discretionary Account (MDA) license through Jade Capital Partners and as of 2nd August 2014, would ‘step up’ to an MDA Financial Services Licensed Firm.

golden ticket“These ‘golden ticket’ licenses are extremely difficult to obtain and only a few dozen have ever been granted by ASIC.” The ATP.

Impressive.

As for the Audrn Group, to date, FOS and ASIC have been unable to locate the directors. One resides in China and ASIC doesn’t have jurisdiction to investigate foreign directors. Then who does? Many people were burnt by ATP and Audrn Group, and deserve compensation.

Given the friendly chats I had with the ATP guys, even during the Deed of Settlement negotiations, this is a most disappointing outcome. But in my book, it ain’t over till it’s over.

“Be careful who you trust, be careful who you talk to. The world isn’t filled with Good Fellas.”

Linda Summer, Scribe, Lost For Words

* Real names not used

asic register

Wrong Road To Real Wealth Pt. 1

How Not To Become An Investor

investorIn early 2014, the looming death of my long‐term relationship motivated me to tinker with designing a new life. I took extended leave from my  job to pursue healthier, happier ways to live and work and reconnect to my long neglected writing aspirations. The time was nigh to transform into a prosperous, self-sufficient, creatively-fulfilled woman.

With luxurious time on my hands to investigate potential roads to financial security and wealth creation, so began a fact-finding mission via Google. 1,850,000,000 hits for ‘finance.’ 23,500,000 hits for ‘wealth creation.’ A daunting overload of experts, opinions, plans and pathways.

I self-educated as much as my tired brain could handle. The concept of creating passive income streams to subsidise my fledgling, entrepreneurial business aspirations, resonated strongly. I reasoned that that if I sought the guidance of financial specialists to set me up and help me further my education, skill and understanding about the finance and investment world, what could go wrong?

As it turned out, everything.

Along Came homebusiness.finder.com

“We will assist you to find and review a legitimate and real online home business. So you can work at home, in your time and earn an income.”

Perfect. I registered with homebusiness.finder immediately. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. When my phone began to ring, a legion of intriguing conversations with a diverse group of enthusiastic business spruikers ensued. The most impressive call came from Sydney based investment company The ATP (Australia) Pty Ltd, a Corporate Authorised Representative of Audrn Financial Group Pty Ltd (the Licensee).

“The ATP stands for Achievement, Trust and Prosperity – at ATP we believe in fairness for our members. Our aim is to provide an open and honest signal service to our clients.”

asic registerSteve Anderson*, a slick, friendly salesman, informed me that the ATP was ‘Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) approved’ and had to ‘jump through many strenuous hoops’ to be awarded a licence. He directed me to the ASIC website and walked me through the ASIC register search process to confirm their company’s legitimacy. He even had the nerve to audaciously criticise investors who ‘fell for financial scams’ because they didn’t check the ASIC register.

Following an impressive online presentation of their ‘advanced trading system’, he convinced me that passive income streams would become my new reality. And better still, I could pay the $14,999 membership fee and open a $10,000 trading account with my superannuation funds by establishing a Self Managed Super Fund (SMSF).

Too easy. And 100% legal. Really? Yes. Really. It has the Commonwealth Government stamp of approval.

TIP: Always request a copy of an online investment presentation, or a transcript on company letterhead. It serves as valuable evidence when the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) registers your dispute and later requests documentation.

Anderson referred me to Glenn Jones*, Financial Advisor, A. Dip FP/SMSF Specialist at Real Wealth, an affable guy who harshly criticised government authorities for using scare campaigns to discourage Australians from setting up SMSFs.

To be perfectly honest, I felt OK about risking my superannuation from a seven-year stint in the public service because I didn’t have an emotional attachment to it. Before signing anything, several more conversations ensued and I also Googled the net for reviews and scam alerts about ATP and Real Wealth but produced nil negative results.

Sadly, it was after the unforseen big rip-off that I discovered the helpful Aussie Scam Alert community and numerous posts from other ATP and Real Wealth victims.

Fortunately, I had the sense to rule out risking any personal savings until the investment opportunity proved its worth.

In hindsight, Real Wealth should have vehemently advised against starting up a SMSF because my superannuation balance would rapidly be devoured by exorbitant fees and taxes. Sure I had plans to generate plenty of income but it wasn’t forthcoming at that particular time. Instead, Jones glossed over the fees and also failed to mention the 15% tax I would have to pay on my rolled‐over super. Had I been made aware of the following fees at the outset, I would have declined the joint venture with The ATP and Real Wealth:

  • $1800.00 ‐ Real Wealth set‐up fee
  • $2500.00 ‐ Real Wealth 2014 fin. year tax & audit
  • $2500.00 ‐ Real Wealth 2015 fin. year tax & audit
  • $1589.00 ‐ PAYG instalment
  • $8221.00 – Tax Payable bill (due to 15% rollover tax)

Several months after the establishment of my SMSF, I heard a finance commentator argue that a minimum of $100,000 is required to set up a SMSF because of the excessive management and audit fees. More recently, a commentator stated that a SMSF is only viable if you have a minimum of $1M to invest. I had just under $50,000 to invest.

July 2014, an email from ATP zealously advised they had been granted a Managed Discretionary Account (MDA) license through Jade Capital Partners and as of 2nd August 2014, would ‘step up’ to an MDA Financial Services Licensed Firm.

“These ‘golden ticket’ licenses are extremely difficult to obtain and only a few dozen have ever been granted by ASIC.” The ATP.

golden ticketIn late August, I emailed ATP with concerns about nil returns. Nil passive income. No response.

September, 2014, an email from Real Wealth director David Orth reiterated the laws against accessing superannuation for personal use or gambling. Savvier than I was at the outset of this doomed journey, I queried why the ATP’s trading scheme wasn’t classed as a form of gambling given the volatile nature of trading and small print warnings about investing money ‘at your own risk’.

David Orth assured me, “the ATP is fine. It’s a financial service.”

Late February 2015, I emailed Jade Capital regarding my nil returns since taking out membership with ATP a year ago. I exchanged several emails with Orth:

“Yes, it’s a total mess at the ATP. I know a lot of people are complaining and jumping up and down over it. Keep pushing them!” David Orth

16 April 2015: With the assistance of a new Real Wealth consultant, I lodged a complaint against ATP with FOS.

21 April 2015: FOS confirmed a dispute had commenced with Jade Capital Partners.

24 April 2015: An apologetic ATP operations manager contacted me and negotiated a full membership refund. I signed a Deed of Settlement which stated that the company would pay me the sum of $15,000 before 1st January 2016.

7 May 2015: FOS advised the dispute against Jade Capital Partners was closed.

13 May 2015: The ATP requested my fund account details and deposited $200 of the $15000 membership refund.

9 September 2015: I contacted ATP to ascertain why no further payments had been made.

“It is of the best interests for the company to see that a resolution be made and we want to assist all of our current, and former clients. We will continue to assist you as best we can, because we care. We are currently in talks with the licensee to ascertain an action plan for moving forward and create a resolution which will be in the best interests of all parties involved.” The ATP

22 February 2016: I heard a whisper that ATP had been taken over by administrators and emailed them for an update. My email bounced. Their contact number was dead. Their website was shut down. I emailed Jade Capital Partners with my concerns that same day and so began the next phase of this long and winding road.

Let’s Play Pass The Buck

“If you have lodged a FOS complaint, under the guidance of Jade (Capital Partners) please let me know. In the past they have told some clients the wrong AFSL holders, which has drawn out the process even longer. It is a textbook stall tactic which has been used.” Brian Stevenson*, Real Wealth

4 February 2016: An email from Stevenson advised that he was looking after tax and audits for the 2015 financial year and strongly recommended I wind up my fund as soon as possible.

I asked for a breakdown of all of the fees, charges and taxes that had been siphoned from my SMSF account. My SMSF balance in the Macquarie and HUB24 account was $5,364.14. Adding insult to injury, the Real Wealth accountant charged an extra $1,500 to wind up a self-managed super fund.

Not only had I lost money to ATP and Real Wealth, I was disappointed to learn that the federal tax man also took a lion’s share:

“When you moved from an untaxed environment to a taxed environment with your funds this attracted a very large tax payable of $6,632.58 and $1,589. This large tax payment would of occurred if you moved to any normal super fund as well, not just an SMSF.”

lion's shareBy that stage, financial-drama fatigue set in and I had other ‘twists and turns’ to tend to. I expressed my disappointment at Real Wealth’s foolish advice to set up a SMSF when I clearly didn’t have adequate funds after paying the ATP membership plus $10,000 trading money.

This was evident at the outset but my rose-tinted glasses helped me block that particular view. In hindsight, how foolish of me.

TIP: If you are feeling exhausted and vulnerable, if life as you know it is on the brink of collapse and you accept it is unfolding for all the right reasons – please set aside your financial aspirations until you have the energy and focus to make sensible decisions.

I just wanted someone to help me create a financial plan that would ensure my security later in life. At 50 years of age, I left it all a bit late but was assured by David Orth that first-time financial planning is commonplace in this age group.

A smarter finance advisor would have politely encouraged me to take off my rose- tinted glasses and consider realistic pathways to wealth creation.

From Bad To Worse

29 February 2016: I successfully negotiated a refund of $2,500 tax and audit fees for the 2014 financial year given that my newly opened account was only a couple of months old at that stage. It was the least Real Wealth could do.

I was also determined to track down the ATP gangsters who got away with selling me their dodgy membership. Why were they not pursued as robustly as Jade Capital Partners and Audrn? I didn’t care about who was licensed to do what. I just wanted my money back.

1 March 2016: A Compliance Director advised me in writing that The ATP ceased to be an Authorised Representative of Audrn Group on 19 May 2014.

“We note that the Settlement Deed dated 24 April 2015 (Deed) between you and The ATP was executed while The ATP was under the AFSL of JCP. Audrn is of the opinion that it is neither a party to the complaint nor a party to the Deed. Audrn Group was not involved in that process and was not aware of any terms contained in the Deed. You may wish to enforce this Deed by lodging a complaint against JCP with FOS.”

2 March 2016: I submitted another complaint to FOS requesting that Jade Capital Partners as the AFSL holder at the time of deed of settlement, pay in full the agreed amount in remuneration of $15,000, now $14,800.

3 March 2016: FOS advised that they had registered my dispute with Jade Capital Partners.

Further discussions with FOS led to registering a dispute with Audrn Group, who were the AFSL when The ATP sold me the membership.

20 June 2016: Real Wealth advised that the balance on my Macquarie SMSF account was $13,060.94. I’m not sure where the extra $7,698 came from but didn’t question it. Perhaps Orth had a moment of moral consciousness.

5 August 2016: FOS queried if Audrn had resolved my dispute. The answer was a resounding no.

8 August 2016: FOS advised they were progressing my dispute against Audrn to Case Management stage.

11 August 2016: FOS advised that Jade Capital Partners had agreed to pay me $838.97 to resolve the dispute. This represented the total amount I lost due to trading while ATP was under the AFSL of Jade Capital.

29 August 2016: FOS informed me that my dispute was moving to the next stage of the process and requested specific information from both myself and Audrn.

20 September 2016: FOS advised that the file has been passed on to the ombudsman so FOS could make a final decision on the matter.

The FOS Determination

28 October 2016: FOS emailed me the Determination which decreed that: “Within 14 days of the applicant’s acceptance of this determination the FSP (Audrn) must pay the SMSF (or other superannuation account in the applicant’s name) $12,499 plus interest in accordance with section 2.2 of this determination. The above compensation is a settlement amount and not a contribution or benefit.

The FSP is responsible for the refund. The product agreement was dated 31 January 2014 and the membership fee was paid on or by 9 May 2014. A Pty Ltd ceased as a corporate authorised representative of the FSP on 19 May 2014 and transferred to a different licensee. As a Pty Ltd received the full membership fee amount at the time it was the authorised representative of the FSP, it is reasonable that the FSP is responsible for the refund of the fee to the applicant.”

Corrupt and Untouchable

I couldn’t thank the FOS case manager and ombudsman enough for their wonderful work and support. 4 November 2016, I received a phone call from the FOS Team Manager. He gently broke the bad but not surprising news.

“FOS advised that it was unlikely Audrn would ever be held accountable for their actions and I also learned that ASIC does not have jurisdiction to investigate foreign directors.” (I said, what?)

licenceDespite frequent attempts by FOS to contact Audrn, there had been ‘limited response’ which may have been due to the fact that new directors were only appointed on 1 July 2016, and one resided in China. I also learned that the corrupt, untouchable Audrn group operated from a suburban house in Adelaide, South Australia and had not lodged any financial reports since 14 October 2013.

Consequently, FOS formally reported Audrn to ASIC for serious misconduct. Audrn had its licence revoked in September 2016.

I was also advised that unless there were substantial assets remaining in the company, it was unlikely there would be any distribution made to unsecured creditors such as me. In a nutshell, Audrn would not be able to meet its obligations and pay me the award made under the determination.

FOS would continue to monitor the situation and advise me if anything changed but there was nothing more that they could do to assist me in the recovery of my losses. I expressed my sincere gratitude for their hard work and empathised with the limitations imposed upon the investigative powers of all concerned.

Meanwhile, back at the Real Wealth ranch, the lone accountant took five months to close my SMSF account. On 25 November 2016, the total amount rolled over to my new superannuation fund: $18,128.52.

My grand loss, thanks to Real Wealth, ATP and Audrn: $28, 957.40.

Reasoning that I would rather face the challenge of losing money than my health, I accepted that I would never recover the money owed to me and vowed to be more discerning and patient in the future. While the overall experience left me feeling disappointed and disillusioned, I innately knew that I wasn’t done yet. Deciding to let sleeping fleas lie for awhile, I focused my energy on creating more joyful stories in my blossoming new life.

Waking the Sleeping Fleas

April, 2018, a welcome email woke the sleeping fleas from their slumber by way of an Aussie Scam Alert informing me of an ASIC announcement:

“ASIC has accepted an Enforceable Undertaking from (Real Wealth) director Mr David Orth under which he will cease to provide financial services for five years. In addition, Mr Orth will make a community benefit payment in the amount of $400,000 to Financial Literacy Australia to support the financial capability of vulnerable people.”

It has since been alleged that Real Wealth has morphed into a new ‘advisory’ business with the same street and PO Box address. The ATP scammers have probably reinvented themselves as well. For all I know, they are on the phone to a new, naive customer as I write this story.

The Royal Commission the Oz Government Didn’t Want to Have

This experience has left me feeling that Australia is a breeding ground for silk-suited gangsters who prey upon decent Australians seeking guidance to help them take control of their financial future. The fall-out from the Financial Services Royal Commission is probably just the tip of a melting iceberg.

For what it’s worth, I submitted my story to the royal commission and encouraged Aussie Scam Alert subscribers to do the same. Although royal commissions give people the opportunity to tell their stories, they are often deemed an exorbitant waste of time and money because governments of the day are known to ignore key recommendations instead of implement them.

The current Australian government behaves like an overgrown, royal banking family, so it will be interesting to see how they respond to the final recommendations.

As of 16 August 2018, the Royal Commission has received 8223 submissions. Top three: Banking 65%, Superannuation 11%, Financial Advice 9%.

Conclusion

gangstersThis journey has taught me how easy it is for immoral finance gangsters to repeatedly slip the net and reinvent themselves behind front lines of eager, new gangsters-in-training, glossy websites, AFSL partners and ASIC approvals – ready for their next round of attacks on decent, financially naive Australians.

It’s unacceptable that predatory financial operators like The ATP and Audrn Group simply get away with their thieving schemes.

As for Real Wealth and other SMSF spruikers, it would be wise for politicians to consider legislative changes that mandate a realistic minimum balance at the outset for would-be investors, be it $100,000 or $1,000,000.

I can’t help but imagine that licensed rip-off cases like this end up at the bottom of  overflowing, political too-hard-baskets.

One would think that ASIC and FOS investigating officers would be be granted wider powers and appropriate funding to enable them to nail corporate and public sector gangsters.

But what does the Federal Government do in 2018? Cut the ASIC budget by $26m. Slash the jobs of 30 investigators.

The Financial Review aptly described the move as “an unheralded budget cut described as shocking by insiders as the Hayne royal commission adds to the regulator’s workload.”

Ain’t Hindsight Grand?

While I feel that I was grossly misled by The ATP and Real Wealth and a bit of a klutz for going ahead with any of it in the first place, I take full responsibility for my impulsive actions and decisions which culminated in these most unfortunate events.

It would have been wiser to seek further advice from reputable financial planners in person before making any decisions. I have learned my lesson well.

*Real names not used

Linda Summer, Lost For Words