An Australian wellness influencer has been arrested and charged with fraud for allegedly duping investors of her online business out of AU$1m (approximately £536,858).
Bianca Cheah, a model and founder of online health brand Sporteluxe, was detained by the Australian Border Force at Sydney Airport at 7.30am on Friday.
Cheah, who had more than 1.3m followers on Instagram before the arrest – the number has since dropped to 155k – was later charged with two counts of publishing false or misleading material to obtain advantage.
The 40-year-old influencer and her husband, Simon Chalmers, from whom she is now separated, have been the subject of a fraud investigation by NSW Police since November 2019. If found guilty, she faces up to two years in jail.
The investigation was launched by investors who alleged revenue figures attributed to her modelling and influencer work were inflated and therefore fraudulent, reported the Daily Mail.
The pair were found to have broken Australian consumer law due to “deceptive conduct” and ordered to repay the funds, but no repayments have been made and Cheah declared bankruptcy in January 2021.
Cheah lived in Sydney before she moved to the US in 2016 after marrying Chalmers, who ran the Kings Cross nightclub in Beach Haus, Sydney, where Leonardo DiCaprio threw his 37th birthday party in 2011.
Prior to her arrest, Cheah posted a series of photographs on her Instagram account of her and her toddler son, Oliver. It was the first post she had made on the account since October.
Explaining why she had not been posting on Instagram, Cheah claimed she had chosen to focus on spending more time with her son.
“I know this is a finite period in my life and I am choosing to embrace it,” she wrote. “I am choosing to find joy in my motherhood journey. I know my little Oliver needs me now in a way he won’t ever again.
“Seeing things through his beautiful lens and thinking about things differently for a change,” she continued. “You see, right now, my Oliver is only little.
“Right now he needs me. Right now I am his safe place and comfort and his home. That is why, first and foremost, I am defined by my motherhood. Being present is my greatest gift I could ever give to Oliver.”
Comments left by Instagram users following her arrest said Cheah’s words had “aged badly”.
One person accused her of disappearing off social media because she was “running from the authorities”, while another added: “Awkward.”
Cheah was granted conditional bail following her arrest and will appear at Manly Local Court on 22 February.