By Chris Thomson | posted on February 8, 2018
AS HE stepped into the dock of the District Court on Monday, the bankrupt former director of Albany’s Rare Coin Company, knowing he would go to jail, turned and mouthed ‘I love you’ to his wife and one-time business partner, Barbara.
Robert Colin Jackman, 63, had earlier pleaded guilty to 36 counts of stealing a combined $1,856,020 from rare currency investors between September 2011 and July 2013 when he placed his company into voluntary administration.
Five of Jackman’s victims listened in the public gallery as prosecutor Katie Kemm said the company had grown from an annual turnover of $615,000 in 1997 to $44.3 million in 2010 when the impact of the global financial crisis hit.
Defence lawyer Bruno Illari said Jackman became overwhelmed by investors “clambering” to call in a coin buyback guarantee the defendant had offered.
“This became a bit of a flood,” Mr Illari told Justice Julie Wager.
“To try to dig his way out of these problems, Mr Jackman tried, unwisely as it turned out, to expand the business rather than contract it.”
Jackman bought a Sydney coin company Mr Illari said had “turned out to be a real lemon”.
He considered entering the Chinese market where Mr Illari said a business partner had “ripped him off”.
Coins sold for one client were often used to pay other clients who were demanding their money back.
Mr Illari said the company had grown “exponentially over a period of time with no review of the business model”.
The company, which had 40 employees at one stage, only had one bank account from which all receipts and expenses, including staff wages, were paid.
Ms Kemm said Jackman had ordered staff to lie to investors, telling them that valuable currency he’d been keeping for them had not been sold when in fact they already had.
In a 168-minute interview with police, Jackman later explained he had become inundated with stock “and clients who were pushy”.
Ms Kemm said the amounts stolen from “ma and pa investors” ranged from $6000 from Pauline Hanlon, to $380,000 from Stephen Hallister, who had stored a rare holey dollar with Jackman.
Jackman’s victims included 93-year-old Molly Sweet, who is now 100.
Ms Sweet lost $45,270, $50,310 and $76,590 from three pieces of rare currency Jackman sold but did not pay her for.
She has a disabled son who Ms Kemm said was “no longer able to be sensitively cared for in the way anticipated”.
In her victim impact statement, Brenda Barrett, 67, who lost $98,500, said she had worked at a fish processing factory all her life, and now could not enjoy her retirement.
Mr Hallister, a FIFO worker, was “extremely angry” after losing $452,000.
Another victim, Leanne Marshall, said she felt betrayed after Jackman’s staff “lied straight to her face”.
Ms Kemm argued there was “an informal and trusting relationship between the offender and his clients”, and the breach of that trust was an aggravating factor in Jackman’s offending.
She told Justice Wager the charges on which Jackman was being tried only dealt with the complaints of 21 victims.
Receivers for Jackman’s company had identified a total of 136 investors who allegedly had not been paid.
Justice Wager ordered Jackman to pay restitution for each piece of stolen currency.
But defence barrister Bruno Illari warned the chances of Jackman ever repaying the monies were slim.
He said Jackman had no prior criminal record, which was “unusual in a case of this kind”.
Mr Illari said Jackman was once named Albany entrepreneur of the year, and neither he nor his wife – who together owned a $6000 and a $4000 car and had $6000 in savings – benefitted personally from the thefts.
“They didn’t have a lavish lifestyle,” he said.
“It was all done to keep this company afloat.
“By 2013, the wolf was well and truly at the door.”
Ms Kemm argued Jackman “might have been a first offender at the start but not at the end of the offending”.
“Clearly, social status was of some importance to him,” she submitted.
She argued that imposing a significant term of imprisonment was the only option open to Justice Wager.
“There is evidence of remorse,” she conceded.
“The real difficulty is the sheer loss at a community level and at a personal level for each of the complainants.”
In summing up, Mr Illari said Jackman accepted there would “most likely be an immediate term of imprisonment”.
Jackman, who has Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, will spend at least 25 months in jail after being sentenced to a maximum four years and two months imprisonment.
Each of the 36 charges carried a maximum seven years penalty.
As Jackman was escorted from the dock into custody, Barbara Jackman got up from her seat and walked toward him to say goodbye from a distance separated by security guards.