A former business director described as “absolutely ghoulish” has been jailed for five and half years after pleading guilty to the theft of more than $1 million from investors.
Victorian woman Maureen Johnston was handed the jail sentence by the County Court of Victoria on 20 December 2018, having pleaded guilty to three counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception.
According to ASIC, Johnston – a former director of Small Business Management Pty Ltd as well as Investman Nominees (USA) Pty Ltd, obtained $1.027 million by encouraging clients to invest money in “bogus property developments” in both Australia and the US.
In a statement after the ruling, ASIC said the client funds were never invested, but instead were used to pay down personal credit card debts and gambled away at Melbourne’s Crown Casino.
Johnston and her husband Douglas were both charged in October 2014. At their subsequent committal hearing a year later in December 2015, both pleaded not guilty but were committed to stand trial.
That trial had been scheduled to commence on 23 January 2017, although it never took place after Johnston offered a guilty plea, that was formally accepted by the court and resulted in the sentence handed down last month.
In sentencing Johnston to five years and six months behind bars, including a non-parole period of two years, Judge Wendy Wilmoth decried her conduct as “intentionally dishonest and blatantly opportunistic”.
Among the victims were Johnston’s home cleaner and a patient she had met in hospital.
The judge said it was completely understandable that one of the victims had described Johnston as being “absolutely ghoulish, atrocious and heartless”, ASIC noted.
The companies regulator added that many of the victims had met Mr and Mrs Johnston through the Collingwood Football Club, who initially befriended them before canvassing the “investment” ideas.
My Business has contacted Collingwood Football Club for comment.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.