A Carrum Downs woman was yesterday (20 December) sentenced to five years and six months imprisonment for deceiving a number of victims into investing through her in fake property developments in the US and Australia.
Following an ASIC investigation, Mrs Maureen Johnston, a former director of Small Business Management Pty Ltd and Investman Nominees (USA) Pty Ltd, was charged and pleaded guilty to three counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, totalling $1,027,000.
She will serve a minimum of two years’ jail time before being eligible for parole.
Many of Mrs Johnston’s victims were friends of hers and her husband’s, after meeting the couple through their connection with the Collingwood Football Club.
Her Honour Judge Wilmoth, who presided over the case, acknowledged Mrs Johnston deliberately befriended her victims before eventually raising the idea of getting them to invest personally through her and her husband.
Judge Wilmoth labelled Mrs Johnston’s actions as “intentionally dishonest and blatantly opportunistic”, and said that her victim’s description of Mrs Johnston, calling her “absolutely ghoulish, atrocious and heartless”, was completely understandable.
According to Judge Wilmoth, if Mrs Johnston had not pleaded guilty, the sentence would have been seven years, with a period of three years’ jail time before she was eligible for parole.
The sentencing comes after Mr and Mrs Johnston were charged with offences on 8 October 2014.
A three-day contested committal hearing was held in December 2015, after which Mr and Mrs Johnston were committed to stand trial. Both entered not guilty pleas.
The trial date for Mr and Mrs Johnston was allocated as 23 January 2017. However, it failed to proceed, as Mrs Johnston chose to offer a guilty plea which was accepted on 20 December 2017.