Former financial adviser jailed for nine years


Former financial adviser Gavin Fineff has been sentenced to nine years in prison after a court determined he defrauded 12 clients $3.36 million.

Fineff, who was working as a representative for Sentinel Wealth when the crimes took place, defrauded clients between $60,000 and $745,000 during October 2016 and March 2020, the District Court of New South Wales heard on April 21, only to use the funds to feed his gambling addiction.

The hearing detailed how Fineff played his unwitting clients, 11 of which were approached to invest in Sentinel via advanced loans. Fineff had a 5% shareholding in Sentinel at the end of 2022 valued at $280,000.

former financial advisor Gavin Fineff jailed for nine years

Other times, Fineff introduced clients to invest in life sciences company QBiotics and Gold Coast-based company Surf Lakes. In one example, Fineff dishonestly obtained $325,000 via a personal loan from Joyce Williams, who was 85 years old at the time.

Fineff told Williams he would invest the funds in Sentinel shares but did not.

"Due to the fraud, the victim was left with limited funds and could not afford to pay her rent. She was issued an eviction order. The police and her local MP assisted her to stay in her house. Sadly, she passed away from breast cancer in October 2021," the proceeding heard.

Fineff used most of the funds to bet on horses. He was a customer of several betting companies such as Betfair, Sportsbet and Ladbrokes.

In one instance, Fineff was a customer of Ladbrokes between June 5, 2018, until March 7, 2020, and had $2.2 million in his account. He made $1.45 million in withdrawals and over the period made a total loss of $758,510.

Records obtained by police from Ladbrokes and Sportsbet show that between June 2014 to March 2020, his total losses amounted to $4.42 million.

Justice O'Brien rejected the defence's argument that the offences "were moderated by his gambling addiction and diagnosed personality disorder, both of which are said to be characterised by impulsivity".

"I do not accept this submission, as the offending was not in my view causally related to these mental conditions," Justice O'Brien said.

Fineff's sentence has a non-parole period of five years, four months each of which commenced on 13 October 2022, when he pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

"Often, as here, these types of offences involve a grave breach of trust and are only able to be committed because of the close personal relationship that exists between an offender and his or her victim," Justice O'Brien said.

"In respect of most of these victims, the offender had established personal bonds over many years. In some instances, he had become close friends with them and their families. His victims let him into their lives, and he seriously abused their generosity, hospitality and trust."

Fineff joined Sentinel in 2010 as a paraplanner and after three years became a financial adviser. At one point, he managed 120 clients.

"Financial advisers at Sentinel were only authorised to provide financial advice regarding a limited number of investments and could not provide advice for investments outside this scope," the court heard.

"Sentinel never approved investment in individual company shares, nor did it advise on individual share purchases."

This article first appeared on Financial Standard

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Karren Vergara is a financial journalist with Financial Standard, covering wealth management, including superannuation, banking and financial planning. Prior to becoming a journalist, she was an accountant for more 10 years. She has a diploma in journalism and Bachelor's degree in business, both from UTS.