'I Am Truly Sorry': Con Man Apologises To Victims But Won't Repay Missing Millions
Hamish Earle McLaren talked 13 victims out of their life savings netting the conman $7.66 million from 2011-2017.
He promised most of them huge returns on the stock market, but it was a pyramid scheme with buy-ins from new investors used to pay off others and keep them on the hook.
Fashion designer Lisa Ho was among the victims who filled the public gallery of the NSW District Court as McLaren’s sentencing hearing began.
The middle-aged businessman still owes $5.7 million dollars to those he stole from, but a court heard it’s unclear where that money went.
Ho managed to claw back most of her money and succeeded in having McLaren declared bankrupt in October 2016 -- others weren’t so lucky.
“There’s one person in the courtroom who knows what happened to the money... but that person has exercised his right not to give evidence,” Judge Colin Charteris remarked.
McLaren pled guilty late last year to 17 counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and one count of knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.
The crimes carry a maximum jail term of 10 and 15 years respectively.
In a letter to the court, the 49-year-old said: “I am truly sorry. I am acutely conscious of the direct and indirect affects my crimes have had on my victims their families and support networks.”
I wish there was more I could do to right the wrongs I feel so ashamed of. I wake up every night… this is a pain that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“The labels of conman and the like are deserved. I understand that many if not all of my victims will never forgive me,” McLaren told the court.
McLaren used various aliases including Hamish Watson, Hamish McRae, Hamish Maxwell and Max Tavita – to keep up the con which lasted about six years.
He’s been in jail since July 2017 when he was arrested.
“Your client is a very late convert to remorse. I’m finding it difficult to conclude that your client is genuinely remorseful,” Charteris remarked.
McLaren's brother in law, Christopher Rourke, gave a character witness and under cross-examination admitted McLaren often told “tall tales” and would often become obsessed with celebrities.
He also told the Judge that McLaren dressed like James Bond after watching the movies starring Daniel Craig.
“He could tell outrageous stories… there was always a new story … they weren’t bad lies he would just exaggerate.”
Many of the victims were at a stage in their lives where it’s been impossible for them to recover financially, after handing over vast sums of superannuation, some parting with $1 million dollars each.
“The losses here … no one would know what it's like until they’ve been given a life sentence in relation to these losses, some of these assets are built up over decades.”
The 12th victim handed over cash after McLaren claimed to be a barrister – the 13th gave him a loan which was never repaid.
“Once it starts it becomes as it were, cancerous and it metastasised into greater and greater dishonesty,” his defence barrister Gabriel Wendler said.
McLaren told the court he’s found God and is sorry.
The judge will sentence him next week.