A lawyer who stole more than $12 million from clients – including singer Joe Camilleri – in a Ponzi scheme, was an "unspeakable bastard", a court was told.
"What kind of man looks you in the eye for years knowing he's lying to you?" asked one victim, a widow who lost more than $3 million, in her victim-impact statement read to Melbourne Supreme Court.
Philip David Linacre, 61, pleaded guilty to 21 counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception involving 17 investors and $12.1 million, and five trust-money offences.
Linacre had promised his clients, including family members, close friends and other lawyers, returns on their investments of between 13 to 23 per cent a year.
Claiming the money was being loaned out and secured by mortgages, Linacre even made up fake documents, such as title searches, to convince his trusting clients.
One client, singer Joe Camilleri, lost $200,000 after investing the money with Linacre between October 2010 and September 2011. He received $54,000 back in interest payments, the court heard, but his original investment has not been repaid.
Mr Camilleri's former wife, Michelle, who had known Linacre since the early 1980s, invested $500,000. She has received $127,000 in interest payments.
Crown prosecutor Ray Elston, SC, told the court that Linacre's Ponzi scheme began in about 2000 but expanded rapidly from 2002 to 2012.
On July 19, 2012, Linacre went to the Legal Services Board and admitted misappropriating clients' funds before handing over his practising certificate to act as a lawyer.
He was interviewed by police in September last year and explained how the Ponzi scheme worked.
Linacre deposited his clients' funds into an account he had set up and then paid them regular interest payments out of the account.
He kept the fund going for years hoping to find a "miraculous solution" to refunding the money but ended up "chasing his tail", he said.
Linacre was under financial pressure when he first set up the scheme, he said, and later used his clients' money to support his lifestyle and manage his legal practice, as well as to make interest payments.
In a victim-impact statement read to the court, 64-year-old woman said she had been emotionally and financially devastated after losing more than $3 million invested with Linacre.
She described Linacre as "an unspeakable bastard" who had been close friends with her husband but continued to steal from her after he died.
Another victim, 74, had been shocked and humiliated at being robbed by Linacre and could not believe the "cold, calculating behaviour" of a person she had cared for and trusted.
She said Linacre had preyed on her and told her at her husband's funeral to ring him any time before stealing more than $600,000 – half her superannuation fund.
Defence barrister Ian Hill, QC, said Linacre had been in a position of trust and had behaved shamefully and disgracefully towards his clients.
Linacre, who had lived a life of privilege, could not explain his actions when interviewed by police.
"It was stupid in the extreme," the disgraced lawyer told detectives.
"My thought process was complex. It (the Ponzi scheme) had to be kept going or these people would lose their money," he said.
"The worse it got the more they were going to lose. I didn't know when the end was going to come. Everyone thinks I'm an animal and a monster."
Linacre, a divorced father of three, told police that when his miraculous solution didn't come, he lived "in a fog" for several weeks before deciding to go to the Legal Services Board and reveal all.
Mr Hill said Linacre had keenly felt the loss of his profession, together with shame, disgrace, humiliation and public hatred.
Chief Justice Marilyn Warren will sentence Linacre at a later date.