GUILTY: Francis Charles Du Bois stole about $1 million
by Court Reporter SEAN FEWSTER (The Advertiser Sat February 22, 2003)
To Charles and Carmela Abela, Francis Charles Du Bois was more than their investment broker he was a member of the family and a trusted friend.
But for Du Bois, the elderly couple he called "my second parents" were no more than another pair of victims to steal money from in the complex web of false investments that funded his life.
Yesterday, the Abelas and 20 of their fellow victims stood in the Supreme Court and applauded as Justice Tom Gray sentenced the now bankrupt broker to 12 years' jail with a eight year non parole period.
Their relief came at the end of 5 1/2 years of waiting through court appearances, adjournments and legal negotiations.
Outside court, Mrs Abela said they lost $20,000 of their life savings to Du Bois, 53, who had promised to invest it.
"From the moment, we first walked into his office, we trusted him implicitly," Mrs Abela said.
"Every time we went in there and saw him we were facing a friend, not a businessman. "We felt he was family but from the first moment, he was ready to take our money and use it for himself."
Du Bois used their money to pay for his children's school fees and for overseas trips costing Mr Abela his last chance to see his gravely ill mother in Malta before she died.
In sentencing, Justice Gray said between January, 1994, and August, 1997, Du Bois, had defrauded about $1 million from his clients, most of whom were elderly or disabled.
He took the life savings of his victims including a mentally disabled man and a personal friend of his parents and used it to inject cash into brokerages, video stores, domiciliary care companies and an office block he owned.
"While your victims suffered, your lifestyle enhanced – you used your victims' money to pursue your financial ambitions and resorted to dishonesty to keep yourself afloat," Justice Gray said. "You preyed on the sick, elderly and trusting and did so through dishonesty and guile the scars of your grave criminal conduct will remain with your victims."
He said although Du Bois had co operated with authorities, his financial records were so lacking that "your web of deceit makes it difficult to ascertain exactly what happened to the money of your victims".
As Du Bois was led away, Mrs Abela yelled "Frank, where did you hide the money you took from your victims, the millions? Tell us!".
Outside court, Mr Abela said Du Bois had told them their initial $20,000 investment had grown to $346,000.
He said he still had $346,000 worth of dishonoured cheques signed by Du Bois.
"He got 12 years, but we got a life sentence not getting to see my mother was the biggest pain of all," Mr Abela said.
"I would say to all the older people out there, beware of who you trust there's a lot of foxes in sheep's clothing."
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