FRAUDSTER CAGED Irish ringleader of fraud gang jailed for eight years in Australia over a multi-million dollar boiler room scam
THE Irish ringleader of a sophisticated fraud gang has been jailed for eight years in Australia over a multi-million dollar boiler room scam.
Stiofan Ceitinn, aka Stephen Keating, 38, from Dublin, led a group of “predatory” fraudsters known as the “Irish Boys” who duped more than 160 people out of Aus$2.1m (€1.28m) over 18 months.
Police believe victims handed over $18m to the gang since 2006 but they were only charged in relation to an 18 month period and a large number of suspected victims declined to give statement.
Along with brothers Aaron Colin East and Daniel Alan East, Ceitinn masterminded “a sophisticated criminal enterprise which at its heart was designed to make money by dishonest means”, Brisbane District Court heard this week.
The men ran a ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ style cold-call scam operation from boiler rooms employing at least 45 people on Australia’s Gold Coast where victims were conned handing over money for what they thought was sports betting and investment software which would earn them big returns.
They convinced victims into paying around $18,000 each after telling them they would make up to $80,000 a year in profit but in reality the products “didn’t work on any level”, the court heard.
Sales staff working for the gang used fake names and in some cases pretended to be ringing from offices which didn’t exist.
"The conduct of the entity was predatory and well organised," Judge Vicki Loury said in sentencing the men on Thursday.
The court heard they were adept at using subterfuge by setting up fake websites for fictitious competitor, producing brochures with fabricated figures and giving false information to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
All the victims lost money but Ceitinn pocketed $230,000 from the victims he was charged in relation to while Aaron East made $301,000 and Daniel East made $282,000.
By the time the scam was shut down there was only $17,000 left in the bank and none of the victims were offered compensation.
"They (the victims) speak of, not only of the financial loss they have sustained, which included for some the loss of savings and the loss of superannuation, but feelings of worthlessness that they have felt as a consequence of being duped," Judge Loury said.
Detective Sergeant Justice Suffolk spoke outside the court to explain how the “Irish Boys” manipulated the internet to convince their victims the con was above board.
"Wherever anyone would go to get checks and balances done they had their own fake presence," he told reporters.
"They dominated the internet with their presence and everything you got was an echo of what they wanted you to hear."
He said the victims shouldn’t blame themselves for falling for the scam.
"I think I would have bought it myself if I got the phone call," Sgt Suffolk said. "That's how good they were."
Ceitinn and Aaron East were sentenced to eight years but will be eligible for parole after serving two-and-a-half years.
Daniel East received a six-year jail term but will be eligible for parole after 20 months.
Theresa Faye Merlehan, 64, a sales woman who was involved in the scam for two months was given a three year suspended sentence.
The court heard she earned around $20,000 working for the gang after realising it was a criminal enterprise.
The trial had heard from another Irishman Neil John McKenny who is already serving a sentence for fraud in relation to his involvement after he netted $522,000 from the scam.
He said he was on a backpacking holiday in Australia in 2005 when he started doing IT work for the scammers.
He said the scam was rebranded with new names and websites at least 12 times while he was involved as customers had complained or criticised the operation.
The gang went so far as to set up websites for fake competitors with contact details so if potential victims emailed the fake company about their products or price they actually got a response from the scammers.
When the gang first found out they were under investigation they were recorded saying: “They [customers] feel the pain, we can take the plane."