Bill Vlahos stole $17.5 million from 71 punters through an elaborate scam involving a fictional formula for winning big and a made-up international betting expert called “Maxwell”.
The 56-year-old blew his money on business class flights, glitzy hotels, fancy cars and a jacuzzi, with no money ever returned to his victims.
But the high life is over for Vlahos, who on Friday faced the Victorian County Court and was jailed for a total of nine years.
The former counsellor-turned-scammer had pleaded guilty to two counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception, making for a total of $17.5 million from 2008 to 2013.
Vlahos’s victims thought they were making big returns through his punting club The Edge, which involved him sending out bi-weekly emails with meaningless betting sheets.
One man poured $800,000 into the scheme.
Judge Douglas Trapnell said the father-of-two had effectively been running a Ponzi scheme, with money from new punters either consumed by Vlahos or used to pay off people who had previously invested in the “fictional” betting system.
He also invented an international betting agent called Daniel Maxwell, whom he referred to as “Max” or “Maxwell”, to help ease any of the concerns his potential victims might have had.
“Through your pernicious greed and desire for personal acclamation, you destroyed the lives and financial security of family, friends and associates,” Judge Trapnell said.
“It is clear you must have known the impact your offending was having on your victims. But you continued – unrelenting and unrepentant.
“Your audaciousness is breathtaking.”
Vlahos suffered from both a borderline personality disorder and narcissistic disorder, Judge Trapnell said, but was ultimately motivated by greed and the pursuit of an extravagant lifestyle.
The 56-year-old’s “dazzling” personal expenditures included more than $170,000 spent on luxury cars, a $53,000 stay at Singapore’s Shangri-La hotel.
He also spent $38,000 on landscaping and $30,000 on a jacuzzi at his home.
Vlahos must serve at least six years behind bars before being eligible for parole.
He has already served 682 days in pre-sentence detention.