Investors have lost almost $1 million after two accused scammers convinced them to finance the career of a young Australian singer they dubbed the “next Taylor Swift”.
A man and a woman from the Sunshine Coast allegedly told friends they were investing in singer Alys Ffion, who was trying to make it big in Nashville.
The pair are Tanya Pluckhahn, 41, and Aaron Parsons, 44, both from Mount Coolum, and have been charged with five counts each of fraud after a police investigation, the Sunshine Coast Daily reports.
The pair claimed to be raising money to help her after she travelled to Nashville a few years ago to break into the US country music market.
But the songstress knew nothing about it and had no idea she’d become the face of a major scam.
“The ploy was to prop her career up and she was going to have a possible extended career, and these investors would receive substantial gains back,” detective acting inspector Daren Edwards said on Thursday.
Instead, police say the pair used investors’ money to fund their own lives, using it to buy cars and pay bills associated with their hospitality business at Alexander Headland.
Insp Edwards said five victims of the Ponzi-style scheme had come forward, with a sixth withdrawing his complaint after he received about $80,000 back from the pair.
Backers, who collectively handed over about $900,000, were told they’d get regular payments based on the singer’s musical success.
“When one investor paid money in … they would then on-pay some money … for example if an investor paid in $100,000 they might see $20,000 back,” Insp Edwards said.
“It gave them the effect they thought they were getting returns … it (also) helped get other investors and staved off the people making further inquires trying to ascertain what happened to their money.”
Insp Edwards said the singer, who is now back on the Sunshine Coast, was as much a victim of the scam as the duped investors.
“She’s a nice young lady … her career was starting to develop on social media. It’s a shame and no doubt she feels very bad about what has occurred.”
Officers say it’s likely there are more victims of the 2016 scam and have urged people to come forward.
They will appear in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court on January 6 next year.