Fraudster Jacqui Bradley was sentenced to seven years five months in jail today for a "classic Ponzi-scheme" that abused her victims' trust and left them "completely devastated".
The 61-year-old was found guilty last month of swindling 28 investors out of $15.5 million through her business, B'On Financial Services.
The former financial advisor ran the firm with her late husband, Mike Bradley, who was also facing charges but died last year aged 63.
The fraudster's lawyer, Ron Mansfield, told the court this morning that Mike Bradley was the "mastermind" of the business and Jacqui had a lesser, administrative role.
It is the same argument Mansfield advanced during Bradley's month-long trial earlier this year.
"It is highly likely this offending was driven by the need for Mike Bradley to perhaps, to disguise poor investments or failed investments in the past and once offending of that kind started it effectively needs to be continued in order to cover it up or remain out of sight," Mansfield said today.
But this did not wash with Judge Christopher Field, who said the fraudster was equally as culpable as her now-deceased husband.
"Each of you played your part. I regard you as being equally culpable with Mr Bradley," Judge Field said.
While Serious Fraud Office lawyer Kristy McDonald QC said that Bradley had preyed on the trust of vulnerable investors and was driven by greed, Mansfield said many clients were "intelligent, mature and advised."
"It is acknowledged there was an abuse of trust. However these were arms-lengths 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," he said.
But the judge said many victims had felt a "sense of betrayal" because of Bradley's offending.
"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," the judge said.
"Many of the investors and victims in this case are people in their late 60s early 70s, they have planned to use the money invested for their retirement, those plans have come to nothing, many of them are in dire financial straits as a result they can no longer take part in family activities which involves the expenditure of money on grandchildren, trips, anything of that sort.
"Their lives have been completely devastated...you held yourself out to be somebody whom they could trust and that trust has been abused," he said.
Some victims were particularly vulnerable, he said.
One, with a terminal illness, had invested his life insurance payout. The Bradleys helped another investor arrange the funeral plans for his mother then approached him to reinvest money at a high interest rate.
Bradley told her clients - some of them close friends she had known for more than a decade - that the millions of dollars they gave her was invested securely with Macquarie Bank in Australia, or had been used to buy New Zealand Government stock.
Instead, the funds were in a Ponzi-like scheme, being used to repay other investors and fund the Bradleys' lifestyle.
Investors' money was spent on school fees to St Cuthbert's College, clothes shopping, payments on a BMW and the mortgage on a Remerua home that was valued at $4.7 million in 2008.
Taking a sentencing starting point of seven years nine months' jail, Judge Field gave Bradley a four month discount because of her age and previous good character.
He could not give her a discount for remorse.
"You maintain your innocence of the charges and you are entitled to do so...but in terms of remorse for the offending itself, I can make no reduction," he said.
The Crown had pushed for a sentence of eight and a half years in prison.