A serial con man known to dress like James Bond has been jailed for at least 12 years after swindling more than $7.6 million from people including girlfriends and good friends.
Hamish Earle McLaren fleeced 16 victims – including Australian fashion designer Lisa Ho and his then-girlfriend Tracy Hall – in a series of frauds run from 2011 until July 2017, when he was arrested.
“He has had absolutely no compassion to the victims,” NSW District Court Acting Judge Colin Charteris said on Thursday.
“He was merciless in accessing their assets.”
McLaren was sentenced to 16 years in jail, with a non-parole period of 12 years.
Some victims cried and others applauded loudly as the serial fraudster was led to the cells.
Like his fictional spy hero James Bond, McLaren drove an Aston Martin car, dressed in smart suits, could spin a good yarn and ran by various names and job titles.
He presented himself as a barrister to one victim, as a Harvard Business School graduate to another and as an investment fund manager to others.
He’d even years earlier changed his surname by deed poll from Watson to McLaren, the name of a British sports car manufacturer.
“To reveal the skill of this offender, he was able to persuade Ms Ho, an experienced businesswoman, and (her company’s) chief financial officer about his qualifications,” the judge said.
But he wasn’t a good investor, only paying out $2.2 million to investors – mostly sought from new investors into his pyramid scheme.
After bank and trading fees, $5.4 million remains unaccounted for.
“Even James Bond would have trouble spending $900,000 a year. Where is it?” the judge asked before his sentencing.
“For all I know, it’s arguable the accused has put this in an interest-bearing deposit in the US.”
The judge later conceded he couldn’t be sure where it was – only the fraudster knew and he’d declined to talk about it.
“A man who spent six years spinning yarns to people and has the gift of the gab did not want to talk to the police (on his arrest) about what he was doing and was unusually silent,” Acting Judge Charteris said.
“He has decided, as is his right, to not enter the witness box.”
The judge empathised with victims, who may feel guilty about letting themselves be deceived but may only be guilty of naivety, the judge said.
McLaren pleaded guilty to 17 counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and one count of knowingly dealing with proceeds of crime.
But Acting Judge Charteris afforded him little credit for the plea, stating the fraudster was only sorry he got caught.
“He had no empathy for the victims, he treated them contemptuously.”
McLaren will be eligible for parole in July 2029.