Bill Vlahos built an elaborate betting system for horse racing and it was a multi-million dollar lie.
The Melbourne racing identity created fake documents and even invented an international betting agent called “Max” to make sure his 71 victims kept handing over money.
Investors thought they were making “spectacular” returns on thoroughbred racing bets in a punting club called The Edge.
Instead, bets were either not placed or had no resemblance to what Vlahos said he was doing with the money.
He then covered his tracks by distributing false betting and results sheets correlated with actual race information and also falsified bank documents.
The sham lasted from 2008 until 2013.
Vlahos last year pleaded guilty in the County Court of Victoria to two counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception worth $17,520,225.
The 54-year-old’s victims have been left financially shattered, some forced to sell their homes and suffering marriage breakdowns.
“We have to start again as we have lost our house,” one said in a statement to the court.
“We worked hard to get where we were and the financial impact financially has shattered us and changed us from the fun-loving couple who have been married for 30 years to sad, miserable and bitter.”
Another victim likened the moment when he learned Vlahos’ scheme was a sham to “getting pushed off a tall building and while I spiralled downwards, watching the last 25 years of hard work sucked out of my lungs”.
As Vlahos’ scheme unravelled in 2013, he tried to obtain loans for new business ventures while $80,000 in personal debt.
He is on bail awaiting sentence and his plea hearing continues.