Hamish McLaren, the conman who dressed like James Bond

Source

A fraudster who stole millions of dollars from multiple victims by offering fake investment schemes and pretending to be a barrister has said in a letter to a court that he deserves the label of "conman".

Hamish Earle McLaren, 49, stole $7.66 million from 15 victims in a trail of deception that lasted from May 2011 until his arrest in July 2017.

Hamish McLaren.

Hamish McLaren.

He variously urged victims to cash in their superannuation, redraw from their mortgages, sell their shares, and apply for home loans to give him money for non-existent investment schemes that promised a high return.

Each time McLaren convinced a new victim to pay, he would use their money to pay "dividends" or "interest" to others, to prolong their belief he was a legitimate investment manager.

He was in a relationship with one of the victims, using a fake name, and at one stage stole $33,270 after he claimed he was a barrister and needed the money to settle a legal dispute.

One of the victims, fashion designer Lisa Ho, had $850,000 taken from her after McLaren said he would invest her superannuation in a low-risk way and give her a high return.

Fashion designer Lisa Ho had $850,000 taken from her by Hamish McLaren.

Fashion designer Lisa Ho had $850,000 taken from her by Hamish McLaren.Credit:Jessica Hromas

On Thursday, McLaren faced a sentencing hearing in the NSW District Court, where he confirmed his guilty pleas to 17 counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one count of knowingly dealing with proceeds of crime.

Acting Judge Colin Charteris read out a letter McLaren had written to the court.

"I am truly sorry," McLaren said. "I will never have the opportunity to turn back the clock."

McLaren said he wakes up "every single night" knowing what he should have done, and when he is eventually released he will slowly attempt to rebuild "my trust with society".

"This is a pain that will stay with me for the rest of my life," he said. "The labels of conman and the like are deserved."

McLaren's brother-in-law, Christopher Rourke, wrote him a character reference. He gave evidence that McLaren was "generous" and liked to spend money, but "did have a tendency to tell lies".

He said McLaren would watch a James Bond movie then dress like James Bond, buying similar suits, an Aston Martin car and getting a similar haircut.

"Are you aware whose money he was being generous with?" Acting Judge Charteris asked.

"No," Mr Rourke said.

The hearing continues.