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.”
Mr 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?
Sadly, 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.)
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.
It’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.
“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:
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.
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):
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.
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.
How 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.
Perhaps 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.
The 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.
“These ‘golden ticket’ licenses are extremely difficult to obtain and only a few dozen have ever been granted by ASIC.” The ATP.
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