Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin

‘Boiler room’ scam: Staff plead guilty

Trio knew work was illegal, court told

- ANNIE PERETS annie.perets@news.com.au

A GRAPHIC designer created fake websites and online testimonie­s for a bogus computer software company to scam $2.16 million out of victims across Australia.

Pierre Joseph Aghajani was contracted by a Gold Coastbased company and knew what he was doing was illegal, a court was told.

The 31-year-old was sentenced in the Southport Magistrate­s Court yesterday after he pleaded guilty to producing fraudulent online material.

The boiler room-type scam, which featured a call centre based in Surfers Paradise trading under Financial Endeavours, sold investment software packages targeting customers through cold calls. More than 200 dissatisfi­ed clients complained to police between January 1, 2014 and August 16, 2015.

The syndicate’s former receptioni­st Chloe Rose Podger, 28, and customer service officer, Thomas Philipp Pfaff, 53, were also sentenced yesterday after pleading guilty to producing fraudulent material.

Crown prosecutor Gary Churchill said fabricated sales figures, awards and reviews were created to help market the software packages.

Podger was the receptioni­st and human resources manager who created brochures using fake data, and screened incoming phone calls. She set up virtual offices and wrote scripts for sale consultant­s, the court was told. Pfaff helped with creating marketing content.

The three were charged in August, 2015 after a joint Crime and Corruption Commission and Queensland Police sting.

Aghajani and Podger were long-term employees of the operation’s alleged leaders, having previously undertaken legitimate and legal work with them, including for solar installati­on and marketing companies, the court was told. Both knew the software company was a fraud.

Podger had been employed by the same people since she was 18 and was aged 22-24 when the offences took place.

Aghajani had worked with the alleged principle offenders since he was 20 and was aged 25-26 when he knowingly made false marketing material.

The alleged principle offenders were not named in court yesterday.

Defence barrister Jeffrey Hunter said the pair had just been following instructio­ns from their boss.

Defence barrister Sally Robb said Pfaff took on the work out of desperatio­n to make a livelihood.

“He had no concept of the amount of money being brought in,” Ms Robb said.

Pfaff found a new job about two months after his arrest.

Podger had completed a masters degree since her arrest and was now a human resource manager for a nationwide brand, while Aghajani has opened an automotive business with his cousin.

None of the three offenders received any extra financial benefit other than being paid for the tasks they were employed for.

Podger had been left with a hefty debt from her work stint with the employer because her tax was never property deducted and she was not paid superannua­tion.

Magistrate Kay Philipson sentenced Pfaff to two-and-ahalf years in jail, wholly suspended for five years.

Podger was sentenced to 18 months in jail, wholly suspended for three years.

Aghajani was sentenced to 12 months in jail, wholly suspended for two years.

 ??  ?? Pierre Joseph Aghajani leaves the Southport Magistrate­s Court.
Pierre Joseph Aghajani leaves the Southport Magistrate­s Court.

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