Scam of the year

Pie in the sky

Here are some of the scams that have won ASIC's 'Pie in the Sky' (PITS) award. The award was given to the most outrageous financial scam.

The way to tell the crooks from the real deal is to check if the company is listed on ASIC Connect's Professional Registers. If they are on the registers you are better protected if something goes wrong.

Past winner - Little Super Fund

The Pie In The Sky award went to the Little Super Fund and its trustee, Mr Gerard Karl Little. Little illegally obtained the super of the members of the Little Super Fund and then pocketed a high commission. ASIC's investigation of the Little Super Fund led to Little's conviction and imprisonment. For more details, see the ASIC press release 'Sydney man sentenced on early access to super charges'.

This early release super scam cheated people out of their hard-earned super, which is not just wrong, it's illegal and the penalties are severe. Victims of early release of super scams are convinced by promoters that accessing super early is a solution to their money problems. The reality is the promoters are looking for a way to scam people out of their super savings.

Read more about superannuation scams.

Past winner - Boxing Day tsunami estate scam

This advance fee fraud email scam asked people to help a Togo barrister access US$17 million from the estate of a man who, along with his family, was killed in the 2006 Boxing Day tsunami. The barrister offered people a share of the wealth if they claimed to be the deceased's next of kin and paid a fee. People paid their money but received nothing and the story turned out to be fictional.

Past winner - Guiseppe Mercorella's ponzi scheme

A ponzi scheme operated by Guiseppe Mercorella offered people investment returns of between 3% and 6% per month. Mercorella's illegal scheme received $216.9 million from investors who ultimately lost $76 million. Many of the investors were from a local Italian community in South Australia and became aware of the scheme through family and friends. This is typical of how many people become involved in a ponzi scheme. Mercorella is serving a five-year jail term. For more details, see the ASIC media release 'Sky high returns are just pie in the sky' and our ponzi schemes webpage.

Past winner - Pegasus investment scheme

This was an illegal investment scheme promoted through wealth seminars across Australia, and operated by Craig McKim. Pegasus Leveraged Options Group lured 90 unsuspecting investors and raised $3.7 million. McKim gambled and spent over $2.1 million of the funds. The NSW Supreme Court found Pegasus investors were promised astronomical returns of up to 8% per week. Investors were even issued a Certificate of Guarantee by a fictitious 'International Investment and Securities Commission'. McKim was jailed in October 2005.

Read more about investment seminars.

Past winner - Carsworthy scheme

'Interest-free' loans were offered to a number of Queenslanders and 220 people eventually invested a total of $2.4 million in the Carsworthy scheme. People were told if they purchased a car through a car buyers club, borrowed a little more from their financier and invested it offshore, the high returns would repay their car loans. When the offshore investments failed to deliver promised returns, investors were left to find their own repayment on much higher loans than they would have otherwise taken out.


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Last updated: 13 Apr 2015