Conman guilty of swindling $7.6m faces decades in jail

 

A serial fraudster known to dress like James Bond is awaiting sentence after swindling more than $7.6 million from people including girlfriends and good friends.

Hamish Earle McLaren, who also used the names Hamish Watson and Max Tavita, has pleaded guilty to 17 counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and one count of knowingly dealing with proceeds of crime.

The charges carry a maximum jail term of 10 and 15 years respectively. McLaren is due to be sentenced in the NSW District Court on Thursday by Acting Judge Colin Charteris.

The judge, at McLaren's sentence hearing, said he had given his victims "a life sentence" regarding their losses.

The fraudster, in a letter to the judge, said he was truly sorry and "the labels of conman and alike are deserved".

The 49-year-old was arrested in 2017 after his multiple faux investment schemes - including in currency, gold and shares in a "profitable" Papua New Guinea gold mine - came unstuck.

McLaren has no formal financial qualifications and on one occasion also pretended to be a practising barrister.

He fleeced 15 victims over six years, the majority being through a Ponzi or pyramid scheme, including Australian fashion designer Lisa Ho and ex-girlfriend Tracy Hall.

Ms Hall gave $317,000 to McLaren - who provided her with false tax invoices - and has never been paid back, the agreed facts state.

Ms Ho gave McLaren $850,000 in superannuation after he promised a low-risk investment with a high return.

She took him to court after being duped and McLaren was declared bankrupt in 2016 but continued his scam.

Hamish McLaren has no formal financial qualifications and on one occasion also pretended to be a practising barrister.
Hamish McLaren has no formal financial qualifications and on one occasion also pretended to be a practising barrister.


The facts state he didn't invest their funds, transferred money between his accounts and "spent as he decided".

His brother-in-law, Christopher Rourke, testified at McLaren's sentence hearing: "He would watch a James Bond movie and then dress like James Bond. Same suit, same hair." He said McLaren also owned an Aston Martin and, at another stage, he believed he was leasing two Ferraris.

Crown prosecutor Carl Young said McLaren "was motivated by greed, not need" and his "systematic dishonesty" wasn't related to any mental illness. McLaren has been in custody since his arrest in July 2017.

Tracy Hall gave $317,000 to McLaren — who provided her with false tax invoices — and has never been paid back, the agreed facts state.
Tracy Hall gave $317,000 to McLaren — who provided her with false tax invoices — and has never been paid back, the agreed facts state.

 

Victim Lisa Ho gave McLaren $850,000 in superannuation after he promised a low-risk investment with a high return. Picture: Adam Yip
Victim Lisa Ho gave McLaren $850,000 in superannuation after he promised a low-risk investment with a high return. Picture: Adam Yip


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