Four face money-laundering charges from alleged Gold Coast crypto scam

Four face money-laundering charges from alleged Gold Coast crypto scam

Photo: Kanchanara via Unsplash

Four people have faced court on money-laundering charges following a two-year investigation by Queensland Police into a cold-call investment fraud on the Gold Coast.

Detectives from the Financial and Cyber Crime Group Money Laundering Unit have alleged that the “boiler room” investment fraud fleeced about 30 people of $1.5 million between 2018 and 2021.

The charges follow arrests of the four in March after an investigation into the activities of four companies - Crypto Advisers Australia, Strategic Capital, Active Marketing Solutions and Alternative Capital – all of which are alleged to have been involved in the crypto currency investment fraud.

The police investigation, titled Operation Uniform Tapenade, is alleged to have found that these companies were involved in a Ponzi scheme and “identity take-overs” to extract funds from would-be investors.

It will be further alleged that the offenders moved illicit funds through crypto currency, precious metals, luxury motor vehicles and real estate to conceal the source of the illicit funds.

A 36-year-old Gold Coast man, a 63-year-old Gold Coast woman and a 37-year-old Gold Coast woman have been charged with one count each of money laundering.

A 46-year-old North Brisbane man, who appeared at Brisbane Magistrates Court on March 25, is facing four counts of fraud and one count of money laundering – knowingly. The man is expected to next appear on May 27, while his co-accused faced Southport Magistrates Court today.

In the wake of charges being laid, Detective Acting Inspector Steve Paskin has warned the public that if an investment opportunity “seems too good to be true, then it probably isn’t legitimate”.

“We understand people are keen to invest in financial products that can see a quick return in the current economic environment, however prospective consumers should always do due diligence before investing in any product,” says Paskin.

“People should seek professional advice from a registered financial planner to understand the legitimacy of the investment, what their expected returns are, and the risk involved.”

The charges come on the heels of findings by the consumer watchdog this week that Australians lost $2.74 billion to scams in 2023.

While this figure is down 13.1 per cent from a year earlier, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says the number of reported scams has increased 18.5 per cent to 601,000 compared to 2022.

People over the age of 65 were the only age group to have reported an increase in the value of financial losses.

“Scammers are financial criminals who use sophisticated technology and psychology to rob Australians of their money and personal information,” says ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe.

“Reports to Scamwatch indicate scammers are targeting older Australians with retirement savings, who may be looking for investment opportunities.

“We know of a recent case where an elderly woman lost her life savings after seeing a deepfake Elon Musk video on social media, clicking the link and registering her details online.

“She was assigned a ‘financial advisor’ and could see on an online dashboard she was apparently making returns, but she couldn’t withdraw her money.”

Lowe says the ACCC is optimistic that its combined efforts collaborating with government, law enforcement, consumer organisations and industry will continue to reduce scam losses.

“We will continue this important work because losses remain too high and behind the numbers are real people who have lost money, often every last cent, to scams,” she says.

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