UNSCRUPULOUS operators are finding self-managed superannuation funds a lucrative new source of income.
Sanctuary Point resident Alison Cook was 21 years old when a car crash stole her dream of becoming a classical ballerina and replaced it with a wheelchair.
But the heartbreak of realising she would be a paraplegic for the rest of her life was followed by a second tragedy when a financial adviser lost a large part of her compensation payout.
“The financial stuff was harder than the crash,” Ms Cook said about losing two-thirds of her $650,000 compensation in high-risk, high-commission investments she was told would provide financial security.
She has had no financial support from her family.
“Disability is a scary thing to deal with and the prospect of doing it without any money makes it even more daunting,” she said.
Ms Cook, now 34, left school in year 9 and had no knowledge of finance.
She had hoped to invest her compensation to produce income to help her out of emergency housing after her discharge from hospital.
Refused advice by Centrelink, she met a mortgage broker who recommended Mike Vitobello, an authorised representative of AAA Shares, a subsidiary of AAA Financial Intelligence.
A spokeswoman confirmed Mr Vitobello had been an adviser, but said he had not worked there for a “very, very long time”.
She declined to comment on Ms Cook’s case.
Mr Vitobello advised her to set up an SMSF and invest in the high-risk, unregistered Asian Pacific Property Fund, intended for sophisticated wholesale investors.
Its assets were four vacant lots in Hervey Bay, 290 kilometres north of Brisbane.
Ms Cook’s doubts were assuaged by the fund’s links to Maxen Developments, owned by former cricketer Craig McDermott and associated with Brisbane Broncos personality Barry Maranta.
She received some investment certificates but all other dealings were word of mouth.
Financial Rescue managing director Neil Kendall is trying to get her some compensation after $450,000 of her assets were lost when Maxen collapsed with debts estimated at more than $40 million.
She used what was left to buy a small house at Sanctuary Point in urgent need of major repairs.
Its rotting bathroom floor needs replacing so it can be accessed by wheelchair.