Categories
In the Media

Identity Thieves and Shady Scams Decimating Unsuspecting Australian Families

To his staff he was Tony Smith. To banks and financial authorities he was Tony Agius.

To investigators he appears to be little more than a puff of smoke left behind by someone who could be living in Asia, possibly Hong Kong or Beijing.

And to a growing list of consumers across the country who believed they were buying solar panels for their homes, he is the man who stole their savings.

The story of a million dollar-scam began in March when the real Tony Agius, of suburban south Brisbane, answered an online job ad seeking solar panel sales people.

Mr Agius provided a scan of his driver’s licence to his supposed new boss – crucially, someone he had never laid eyes on and who he only communicated with via email.

Days later, on March 28, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission registered a change in officeholders at a company called LG Energy Solutions Pty Ltd.

The sole director became Anthony Agius of Underwood in Brisbane.

According to its ASIC company extract, the address of LG Energy Solutions was level 27, 127 Creek Street in Brisbane’s CBD.

Alarm bells should have rung at the corporate regulator. The building only has 23 floors.

By April, LG Energy Solutions’ “Easter Sale” was popular in the booming market for rooftop solar and battery packages, a product heavily subsidised by the federal government’s solar rebate.

Calling himself Tony Smith, the man no one had seen hired sales staff over the internet on commission-only contracts to flog his “product”.

Read the entire story at the Sydney Morning Herald

Categories
In the Media

Australia’s Insolvency Expert Tackles Identity Theft

It was only a matter of time before the scourge of identity theft forced an insolvency practitioner to validate their appointment and Sydney liquidator Steve Kugel has recently been enjoying the inconveniences that flow from discovering an appointor is not who he seems.

Kugel was contacted on April 19 by a person identifying themselves as Tony Aguis, director of a company called LG Energy Solutions. Over the next couple of days Kugel and Aguis communicated electronically.

Aguis explained that he was in Hong Kong and wanted to place the company into liquidation. He told Kugel that the other directors of the company had recently resigned.

He also provided Kugel with details of creditors claims and documentation about proceedings initiated against the company by LG Electronics Australia. For the purposes of this tale SiN will call the plaintiff in those proceedings the Real LG.

Over the course of the week Kugel sought various information from Aguis.

He obtained a copy of a driver’s license but communication was intermittent and frequently unsatisfactory. The elusive Aguis, who claimed to be based in the Chinese capital, Beijing, blamed international telephony networks.

Kugel meanwhile took steps to confirm the identity of who he was dealing with. It didn’t take long for anomalies to emerge.

Read the story so far

Categories
In the Media

Investigation-free Liquidations – Good Idea?

The Government’s response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Business Set-Up, Transfer and Closure has just been released.

Recommendation 15.1 (page 27) is for a simplified small liquidation process for companies with debts of less than $250,000.

For such companies, the government supports:

1. A substantially reduced investigation into the control of a company and use of its funds;

2. A reduction of creditor participation in the liquidation process

To offset a reduced or non-existent investigation and presumably to allay creditor concerns, the government will require directors lodge a signed form with ASIC verifying the Company’s books and records are accurate.

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Categories
Director Liabilities

Phoenix Promoter has assets frozen and Provisional Liquidator appointed

For the last few months, we have been updating you about raids undertaken by the ASIC and the Federal Police in relation to an alleged Phoenix Company promoter.

Recently, the Court ordered that the assets of the phoenixer be frozen and a Provisional Liquidator appointed to companies under his effective control that appears to have included an accounting and legal practice.

You can read more here (http://murrayslegal.com.au/blog/2017/05/01/freezing-orders-against-alleged-phoenixers/) and also the Court judgment which is linked to the story.

In short, in making its orders, the Court found there to be a  strong prima facie case that:

  1. the corporate defendants are systematically avoiding compliance with their taxation obligations, including failing to file income tax returns, pay income tax, report their goods and services tax (“GST”) and PAYG withholding amounts and pay their GST and PAYG withholding amounts;
  2. the corporate defendants are collectively operating a business of defrauding creditors involving “phoenix” activities for their clients;
  3. the corporate defendants are controlled by Mr Whiteman, who is the de facto director of all of them;
  4. the persons registered as the directors are “puppets”; and,
  5. two of the corporate defendants, A & S Services and AHW Solicitors, are phoenix companies themselves.
Categories
Company Liquidation

Latest Liquidation Involving a Scam and Identity Fraud

Having been in the Insolvency Profession for about 28 years I thought I’d seen it all. But then something comes up that sends a powerful message to all professionals as well as members of the public.

In late April I was appointed Liquidator of a company that advertised a 50%-off summer special for solar panels. The catch was that consumers had to pay the full cost of the product upfront – before any installation had occurred.

The logo of a major international brand was used in all the company’s marketing materials and correspondence. Believing they were dealing with a reputable company, people promptly deposited amounts ranging from $7,000 to $35,000 into the nominated bank account.

Unfortunately, it was a scam. No deliveries or installations appear to have occurred.

As soon as I was appointed and gained access to the bank accounts, I could see that money had been swept from the company’s bank account to another entity outside of Australia.

I soon became suspicious that the company representative with whom I’d been dealing, who’d purported to be the director and had provided me with a driver’s license and passport, was not who he said he was.

Sure enough, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed my suspicion that the passport was not a genuine document.

It appears the purported director had stolen the identity of a real person who appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with the company. Further, the registered trading address as per the ASIC register was found to be four stories above the top of the building in which they were said to reside – giving a whole new meaning to “in the cloud”.

So while the company itself is real, it seems to have been set up with the express purpose of defrauding the public.

As there were issues with the identity of the director, it brought into question the validity of my appointment as liquidator. Accordingly, I approached the Supreme Court for directions.

Understanding the extent of the scam and the risk to the creditor-victims of not being represented, the Court ordered that my appointment as Liquidator is valid and should continue.

The message to the public is that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

The message to professionals is to take whatever steps you can to verify the identity of anyone you deal with. Identity theft in the computer age is becoming more and more prevalent. Be careful!