Elderly couple lost their life savings when they invested with Jacqui Bradley, who's now serving 7-year jail term
Elderly couple Robert and Jane Baldey entrusted their life savings to Jacqui Bradley, only to have their money vanish in a Ponzi fraud.
The couple made the trip yesterday from their Ohope home to the Auckland District Court, where Bradley was sentenced to seven years and five months' jail for her prolonged and premeditated defrauding of clients of her financial services firm.
Like many of Bradley's victims, the Baldeys lifestyle has been "devastated" by her offending. "All our life savings are gone. We survive just on our superannuation," Mr Baldey told the Weekend Herald yesterday.
After Bradley's firm, B'On Financial Services, went into liquidation in December 2009, the retired businessman was diagnosed with cancer and said he could no longer afford his health insurance premiums.
"My wife, her health has suffered too. Every hurdle we come to, financial or emotional, it hurts us both."
According to Bradley's last financial statement before B'On collapsed, the couple were owed $745,000.
They got $50,000 back.
Other investors caught up in Bradley's $15.5 million fraud sat at the back of the court yesterday and heard that the woman they trusted with their money still believed she was innocent.
During sentencing the finger was pointed at her husband, Mike Bradley, who was also facing charges but died last year aged 63.
Mike Bradley had been the "mastermind" at B'On, while his wife had taken a more administrative role, said defence lawyer Ron Mansfield.
Graham Simons, a good friend of the Bradleys who estimates he lost $800,000, rubbished that claim outside court and said Jacqui Bradley was deeply involved with the business.
Mr Simons said that when his mother died, the Bradleys helped arrange the funeral and then approached him to invest money from her estate.
"You were just groomed just like a paedophile goes and grooms a kid. That just kicks you in the guts."
The suggestion Jacqui Bradley held a lesser position at B'On did not wash with Judge Christopher Field either. "Each of you played your part. I regard you as being equally culpable with Mr Bradley," he said.
While the Crown said Bradley had preyed on the trust of vulnerable investors, Mr Mansfield argued many B'On clients were "intelligent, mature and advised".
"It is acknowledged there was an abuse of trust. However these were arms-length investments made by intelligent, mature and advised investors. They had other alternatives available to them. They elected to invest with B'On because of the types of returns which were being offered."
But Judge Field said victims had felt a "sense of betrayal" because of Bradley's offending. "Their lives have been completely devastated ... you held yourself out to be somebody whom they could trust and that trust has been abused," he told her.
"The extent of loss harm and damage is very significant indeed. The offending, of course, involved premeditation and planning over a period of some years."
Bradley told her clients - some of them close friends she had known for more than a decade - that the millions they gave her was invested securely with Macquarie Bank in Australia, or in Government stock.
Instead, the funds were in a "classic Ponzi scheme", being used to repay other investors and fund the Bradleys' lifestyle.
Money was spent on school fees to St Cuthbert's College, clothes payments on a BMW and the mortgage on a Remuera home that was valued at $4.7 million in 2008.
Meanwhile, the Baldeys say they are now living on a tight budget, unable to afford the birthday presents they would have bought their six grandchildren if not for B'On's collapse.
"She has given us a life sentence," Mr Baldey said.
$745,000: Owed to investors Robert and Jane Baldey
$50,000: All they got back when fraudster Jacqui Bradley's firm collapsed