Melbourne lawyer Philip Linacre’s $12 million fraud began as a way to solve his money woes.
But in the end, he was seen as nothing but an “unspeakable bastard” by the victims who entrusted him with their savings, among them relatives and a friend dying of cancer.
Linacre, 61, set up a “Ponzi” scheme where his clients, some of whom invested millions, deposited money believing it was going to a high-return investment scheme.
But none of the money was invested.
Linacre pleaded guilty on Monday to 26 deception charges relating to 17 clients between 2000 to 2012.
The fraud began when Linacre was in financial trouble, defence barrister Ian Hill QC told the Victorian Supreme Court.
He began using the money for his own needs, believing when the principal sum invested was due to be repaid, he would be able to pay it back along with the interest.
But his financial position didn’t improve, the scheme kept growing and he was effectively chasing his tail, Mr Hill said.
The amount obtained from investors was more than $12 million. Of that, about $1.8 million was paid back in interest to the victims.
In their statements to the court, victims spoke of their shock and anger.
“What kind of man looks you in the eye for years, knowing he’s lying to you?” one woman said in her statement read by prosecutor Ray Elston SC.
“The fact that Mr Linacre was our lawyer and my husband’s friend, and that he stole from us when my husband was dying of cancer and continued to steal from me after his death, makes him an unspeakable bastard.”
Linacre, of St Kilda, handed in his practising certificate to the Legal Services Board in July 2012, admitting duping his clients out of their trust and investment money.
He told police he kept the scheme going in the hope of finding a miraculous solution.
“Everyone thinks I’m an animal and a monster,” Linacre told police.
“I’m so terribly sorry for these people.”
Linacre will be sentenced at a date to be fixed.