The pensioners and nursing home residents were given huge loans to invest in a doomed money making venture. One of the victims, who was given a $440,000 loan and 30 years to pay it off, is 101-years-old.The lending scandal that’s ruined lives is raising so many questions that's it's now the subject of a Senate Inquiry.
Westpac loans manager David St Pierre was so desperate for business he visited 98-year-old pensioner Heather Simmers in her Brisbane nursing home three years ago to finalise a loan.More stories from Today Tonight
Del Black is Heather's daughter. She says her mum suffers from dementia and wouldn't have known what she was signing up for – a $440,000 loan over 30 years.
St Pierre also convinced Del to take out a $275,000 loan.
“I didn't expect to get a loan - didn't expect to get a loan approved,” Del said.Today Tonight's latest banking stories
The money was to finance property investments promoted by Liz Orchid.
“Liz came and suggested I should get equity in my house, so I thought about that for me,” Del said.
Investors were promised healthy returns of fifteen per cent in a scheme that ultimately never got off the ground, leaving those who'd poured huge amounts of money into it with huge debts.More stories from reporter Neil Doorley
“I found out since it was left hand feeding the right hand, and the right hand feeding the left hand - I think it's been a dodgy deal all round,” Del said.
Mark Morley was also convinced to invest his money in the failed property scheme, refinancing his $150,000 mortgage and borrowing $400,000 through St Pierre.“That's basically my retirement gone sort of thing, as far as the funds,” Morley said.
“I these people are very, very good and very, very cunning. They could suck in almost anyone with their scheme,” he said.
“I think with Today Tonight exposing people it alerts other members of financial institutions, other banks, they see these people's faces and names and they won't then - they'll be blacklisted.”
But it's too late for 95-year-old Keith Cockcroft, whose family claims the financial stress he suffered after being signed up for a loan of half a million dollars though St Pierre, contributed to his death.
Senator John Williams is adamant these sort of reckless lending practices won't go unpunished.
“If what has been brought to my attention, what I've highlighted in the senate enquiry, is correct then Mr St Pierre has some serious questions to answer,” Williams said.“If we're looking at fraud here, that’s why we're suggesting Westpac pass this matter onto police.”
Westpac today confirmed St Pierre had worked for the bank for more than twenty years. He wasn't fired but left on his own accord.
As for Liz Orchid, she claims she was deceived and tricked into marketing investments which she now believes were a complete con.
While his former customers face losing everything St Pierre remains holed up in his mansion on the Gold Coast.Westpac response statement
A number of people, including a small number of Westpac customers, appear to be the victims of a sophisticated scam and are suffering financial hardship as a result of borrowing to invest in the scam.
Westpac is committed to providing appropriate compensation to those customers who have borrowed money from us and who have been the victims of the apparent scam.
We believe that the apparent scam was committed by individuals who were never connected with Westpac's business.
The matter is presently before the Police.
We are strongly encouraging all Westpac customers who believe they are victims of this apparent scam to lodge a formal complaint with the Police so that a full and proper investigation can be undertaken.
The home finance manager who facilitated entry into the loans is no longer employed by Westpac.