Former financial adviser Rahul Goel was sentenced by the Perth district court for defrauding his superannuation clients.
He was given a three-year custodial sentence but will be released after 18 months “upon entering a A$5,000 (£2,761, $3,403, €3,215) recognisance to be of good behaviour for two years”, said the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic).
The regulator found that, between November 2018 and July 2019, Goel submitted falsified benefit access applications or hardship applications to his clients’ superannuation funds after obtaining their First Nations account details.
The requests were made in the customers’ names, without their consent, through which he dishonestly took around A$35,000 of client money.
The ex-adviser also provided false contact details on the documents, including his own phone number and address, and created false email accounts in the members’ name to communicate directly with the superannuation funds.
Once contact was made, he would then impersonate the clients over the phone.
When the payments were received, Goel then retained up to 100% of the payout in fees before forwarding the balance to his customers.
The watchdog took legal action against the ex-adviser in September 2020. He was then charged in October 2020 with four counts of dishonest conduct. In April 2021, an additional 12 charges of dishonesty and three charges of falsification of documents were added against him.
He then pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonest conduct and has since repaid several customers with funds held in accounts that had been frozen by the federal court.
Asic deputy chair Sarah Court said: “Asic was particularly concerned by Mr Goel’s conduct, which had many characteristics of a scam and a direct and adverse impact on First Nations consumers. Asic will continue to prioritise its enforcement work in this area.”
Justice Levy said in his sentence that Goel’s conduct involved “deliberate and calculated acts of deceit” and constituted “a significant breach of trust”.