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Court Erupts In Applause As Serial Conman Is Jailed

Hamish Earle McLaren swindled close to 8 million dollars from 13 victims – most of those conned as part of a pyramid scheme.

Today they packed the public gallery at Darlinghurst District Court in Sydney to see him sentenced to 16 years jail.

Victims broke into loud applause as McLaren was led away, retiring Judge Colin Charteris joked that despite his decades on the bench this was “his first applause” to which the victims responded with more thunderous clapping.

The conman, known to dress up like James Bond, pretended to be an investment guru and at one point a barrister to get people to trust him and hand over their hard-earned cash. Peter and Lorraine Cross who were debt free heading into their retirement gave him their life savings – $ 1.7 million.

“They now have no income, no savings and no superannuation to live on, all they have is an outstanding debt from the offender of 1,143,000.” Judge Charteris said.

Lorraine Cross and her husband Peter, victims of Hamish McLaren, leave the Downing Centre District Court in Sydney. Photo: AAP

At one-point McLaren told them their portfolio was worth $10 million. He lied and lied to con more victims and used their new money to pay off existing clients and keep people on the hook, in a pyramid scheme the judge described as “devious”.

All up McLaren stole $7.66 million between 2011- 2017.

“This offender preyed upon the victims, he had the ability to persuade them to part with money, he had no empathy, he was driven by the main game which was to spend their money as he wished.” Judge Charteris said.

More than $5 million dollars is still missing, with McLaren refusing to reveal where it went or whether it’s tucked away somewhere. His house of cards collapsed in mid-2017 when police arrested him at his Bondi home.

“Even James Bond would have trouble spending $900,000 a year, where, where is it?” the Judge asked.

“A man who had spent six years spinning yarns to people and having the gift of the gab didn’t want to talk to police and was usually silent.”

At his sentence hearing last week the 49-year-old apologised to his victims, an apology that was rejected by the court.

“He has not persuaded me remotely… I do not believe he has any remorse, he is consumed by himself.” Judge Charteris said.

McLaren will be eligible for parole after he’s served 12 years – he’s already served two waiting for his day in court. His victims say it’s the end of a terrible chapter for them but McLaren has a long stretch ahead.