Tony Iervasi, of Tweed Heads, NSW, has pleaded guilty in the Downing Centre Local Court to five criminal charges regarding the operation of a Ponzi scheme when he was director of Courtenay House Pty Ltd (in liquidation) and Courtenay House Capital Trading Group Pty Ltd (in liquidation).
Mr Iervasi pleaded guilty to four offences of engaging in dishonest conduct between 13 December 2010 and 21 April 2017, when he was the sole director and shareholder of Courtenay House, which raised around $180 million from around 585 investors.
The Courtenay House companies, based out of Bondi Junction, New South Wales, represented to investors that their funds would be traded in Forex and Futures markets when only around three per cent were traded. Instead, monthly amounts paid to investors were derived from capital deposited from new investors. This has been referred to, and admitted by Mr Iervasi, as a Ponzi scheme.
In addition to offering purported ‘standard’ investment products, Mr Iervasi ran several ‘investment specials’ to encourage trading. In December 2016, Mr Iervasi invited clients to invest in a ‘US Election Special Trade’ which was to take place between 1 January 2017 and 1 February 2017 to coincide with the Inauguration of President Trump, as a way to invest in what Mr Iervasi claimed was ‘fast-money markets’. On this occasion, Mr Iervasi offered a 15 per cent return with a 20 per cent risk.
Mr Iervasi’s clients were told, via weekly emails, that they had made profits from the US Inauguration Special Trade, but the money was instead used to sustain the Ponzi scheme.
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Mr Iervasi also pleaded guilty to one charge of carrying on an unlicensed financial services business, as neither of the Courtenay House companies held an Australian Financial Services (AFS) license to cover the provision of financial services including the promotion of financial products or trading on behalf of clients.
The matter is being prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions after an investigation and referral by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Upon pleading guilty to the charges, Mr Iervasi was committed to the Supreme Court of New South Wales for sentence, which will occur on a date yet to be fixed. Mr Iervasi’s first appearance before that Court will be on 9 December 2022.