Former Courtenay House director pleads guilty to $180m Ponzi scheme

Former Courtenay House director pleads guilty to $180m Ponzi scheme

Photo: Squirrel Photos, via Unsplash.

The former sole director of The Courtenay House companies has admitted to conducting a $180 million Ponzi scheme that extracted money from 585 investors over the course of more than six years before the businesses entered liquidation in May 2017.

Tony Iervasi, of Tweed Heads, has pleaded guilty in the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney to five criminal charges relating to the scheme while he was director of Courtenay House Pty Ltd and Courtenay House Capital Trading Group Pty Ltd.

Both companies, in liquidation, are based out of Bondi Junction.

He pleaded guilty to four offences of engaging in dishonest conduct between 13 December 2010 and 21 April 2017, telling investors their funds would be traded in Forex and Futures markets when only around three per cent were traded. 

Instead, monthly amounts paid to investors were derived from capital deposited from new investors.

Iervasi ran several ‘investment specials’ to encourage trading. For example, in December 2016 he invited clients to invest in a 'US Election Special Trade' to take place in early 2017 to coincide with the inauguration of President Donald Trump, as a way to invest in what he claimed were 'fast-money markets'.

He offered a 15 per cent return with a 20 per cent risk, and via weekly emails his clients were told they had made profits from the special trade. However, those funds were instead used to sustain the Ponzi scheme.

Iervasi also pleaded guilty to one charge of carrying on an unlicensed financial services business, as neither of the Courtenay House companies held an Australian Financial Services (AFS) license to cover the provision of financial services including the promotion of financial products or trading on behalf of clients.

The matter is being prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions after an investigation and referral by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. 

Upon pleading guilty to the charges, Iervasi was committed to the Supreme Court of New South Wales for sentence, which will occur on a date yet to be fixed. His first appearance before that Court will be on 9 December 2022.

The maximum penalty at the time for engaging in dishonest conduct in relation to a financial product or financial service was 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $810,000, or both. The maximum penalty for operating without an AFS licence is two years’ imprisonment, a fine of $22,000, or both.

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