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18-391MR Former company director jailed for stealing $1 million
Mrs Maureen Johnston, of Carrum Downs, Victoria was today sentenced in the County Court of Victoria to five years and six months imprisonment.
An ASIC investigation found Mrs Johnston, a former director of Small Business Management Pty Ltd and Investman Nominees (USA) Pty Ltd, deceived victims into investing money in various bogus property developments in the United States and Australia. The funds were not used for investment purposes, but instead were spent gambling at the Melbourne Crown Casino and paying personal credit card debt.
The sentencing comes after Mrs Johnston pleaded guilty to three counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, totaling $1,027,000.
Many of the victims met Mrs Johnston and her husband, Douglas Johnston, through their close association with the Collingwood Football Club, where friendships were developed before the Johnstons first raised the idea of investing personally through them.
Mrs Johnston must serve a minimum of two years before being eligible for parole.
In sentencing, Her Honour Judge Wilmoth stated Mrs Johnston’s actions were, “intentionally dishonest and blatantly opportunistic” and if it was not for her early guilty plea, the sentence would have been seven years with a period of three years before being eligible for parole.
Judge Wilmoth noted that Mrs Johnston befriended the victims, who included Mrs Johnston’s house cleaner and a patient whom she had met in hospital, before exploiting them for financial gain. Her Honour commented that one of the victim’s description of Mrs Johnston as “absolutely ghoulish, atrocious and heartless” was completely understandable.
The matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
On 8 October 2014, charges against Mr and Mrs Johnston were issued.
On 16 December 2015, after a three-day contested committal hearing, Mr and Mrs Johnston were committed to stand trial, entering into pleas of not guilty.
The trial date for Mr and Mrs Johnston was set down for 23 January 2017, however it did not proceed, as Mrs Johnston offered a guilty plea which was accepted on 20 December 2018.