A brazen fraudster conned his victims out of more than $10 million while investing in a lavish lifestyle including racing cars, helicopters and boats.
Terence Nugara, 50, used his knowledge of legitimate property businesses to persuade retirees and parent investors to invest their money in a series of luxury developments dotted around Melbourne, as well as one in Bali, over a period of five years.
Nugara, also known as “Rio”, lured his victims by promising them a 98.93 percent return within two years if they invested in him and his company Skynet Financial Services.
Between 2014 and 2019, Nugara deceived 38 people into giving them $10,152,061 of their hard-earned money before pocketing the money himself rather than investing it.
“You are a selfish, greedy little man,” one victim told Nugara in Victoria County Court on Tuesday.
Terence Nugara’s victims gave him their savings and access to their super funds, which he falsely promised to invest
Nugara, of Brighton in Melbourne’s south-east, pleaded guilty to 37 counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception and two counts of theft.
Wearing a gray prison tracksuit in the dock of a packed courtroom, Nugara pouted nonchalantly as the court was told of the damage his fraud caused to his victims.
An elderly couple have spoken of the “devastating” impact the ordeal has had on their lives.
They said the theft of 40 years of superannuation had put “unimaginable stress on our 45-year marriage”.
Another investor told the court he had to sell his property and move into a rental because he was no longer able to pay his mortgage after entrusting his money to Nugara.
“Mr Nugara obviously had little regard for me or my family, he knew we were not rich,” another victim told the court.
“I find some comfort in the fact that he will be brought to justice for what he did to myself and others.”
Race cars were one of Nugara’s favorite purchases with the money he took under the guise
Nugara’s main scam involved convincing investors he was linked to a legitimate company developing six sites in Melbourne, the court was told.
He asked his victims to transfer money to him or give him control of their self-directed retirement funds so he could invest money on their behalf.
In most cases, the money never reached the property developer and was instead used to fund Nugara’s high-flying lifestyle.
When concerned customers contacted the legitimate company to ask where their money was, they were told they had never invested in the developments.
When Nugara invested money on behalf of a client, he kept the profits for himself.
The court heard Nugara also created two fictitious developments in Sandringham and Bali.
He went so far as to invite investors into his office for a fake presentation during which they were shown development “plans” for the Sandringham property which were fully drawn up, the court was told.
Fake financial planner Nugara cheated victims out of more than $10 million over five years
In some cases, Nugara transferred money from victims’ bank accounts directly to his own after they gave him access for investment purposes.
As questions mounted over where his victims’ money went, Nugara fled Australia in August 2019.
He spent three years on the run in exotic locations including Bali, Sri Lanka and Costa Rica before being arrested on his return to Melbourne Airport in October last year.
Nugara was previously a legitimate financial adviser, but his license was suspended in 2015 before being terminated in 2016, the court was told.
His lawyer told the court that Nugara would never work in finance again.
“He could do it without a license,” Judge Trevor Wraight joked in response.
Many of his victims have yet to receive a cent of their money.
“We are not the same carefree people we were before 2018,” a heartbroken grandmother told the court.
“All we ever wanted was a quiet, happy life where our family would be happy. Nugara took that away from us.”
Nugara is due to be sentenced on October 5.