It will be alleged the victims were tricked into thinking their investments of more than $2.7 million had produced a significant profit, which never existed.
From 2017, victims were contacted regarding investing in Exmount Holdings Group, a legitimate-appearing company with a website, call centre and sales staff.
Police said other companies and websites attached to this scam included Exmount Holdings Ltd, The Quid Pro Quo Foundation, The Atlas Group, AFG Associates Pty Ltd, tradex123, exmounttrading, atlasfxgroup and amazonqus.
It will also be alleged victims were offered a trial investment, with the promise of generous returns once they had invested more funds. Victims were provided unique log-in details for the website, where they could watch their initial investment grow over the trial period.
When victims tried to withdraw their capital, they could not because their money had gone and the supposed companies or staff involved could not be contacted, according to police.
Detective Sergeant Kris Steadman said the five accused were “key figures” in the alleged criminal syndicate, which was set up as a legitimate business and employed call centre workers, who police believe did not realise they were involved in alleged criminal activity.
Police will also visit those people who were associated with the ABN registrations and company bank accounts.
Sergeant Steadman said some victims had referred friends to the investment scheme and they too lost money. Only $30,000 has been recovered by authorities.
Detectives searched several properties during the investigation and charged three men – aged 33, 44, 56 – and two women – aged 21 and 28 – from the Gold Coast with fraud and money laundering.
They were due to appear in Southport Magistrates Court this month and in September.
The major fraud charge carries up to 20 years’ imprisonment and if the organised crime allegation can also be proven in court, the penalty for the five accused could be increased.
Toby Crockford is a breaking news reporter at the Brisbane Times