When Toni Brady met a man named Adam Cranston through a mutual friend two years ago she had no idea what was to follow.
Within days she had a job as his assistant, within months he’d bought her a Jeep Grand Cherokee. And, as she told The Herald Sun, the gifts kept coming. There was jewellery, designer clothes, plastic surgery, and overseas trips.
“He made me the happiest I’ve ever been. He was the only guy that really showed that he cared about me and loved me,” the 24-year-old told The Herald Sun. “Being with him made me feel like I was at home.”
That man, who has since married, has now been arrested as part of one of the largest white-collar crimes in Australian history. That man is the son of the Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Tax Office.
Here’s how the story unfolded.
The alleged scam
$165 million. That’s how much the Australian Federal Police will allege has been stolen from the Commonwealth by a group of high-flying men, including Adam Cranston.
The 30-year-old was arrested in Sydney yesterday (and later granted bail) as part of Operation Elbrus, which – as of this morning – has seen 10 people brought into police custody. Among them, his 24-year-old sister, Lauren.
The accused face various charges, including conspiracy to defraud, dealing with proceeds of crime and blackmail.
Police don't believe Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston was aware of his son's actions. However, he has been issued with a future court attendance notice for allegedly abusing his position as a public official by trying to access restricted information on an audit involving the young man.
How did the scam work?
It will be alleged that the syndicate used a legitimate business named Plutus Payroll, which received money from several major clients for payroll services.
To handle the actual payroll processing, the group set up seven sub-contracted companies, and that's where the alleged conspiracy comes in.
These tier-two companies, the AFP claims, were a front. While processing payroll payments, the syndicate allegedly diverted funds intended to cover their clients' tax obligations into their own pockets via complex channel of companies and trusts.
The big spending
According to the ABC, as part of the investigation into the conspiracy, the AFP seized: 25 motor vehicles, $15 million in bank accounts, 18 residential properties, 12 motorbikes, two aircrafts, firearms, jewellery, artwork, vintage wines and $1 million in a safe deposit box.
“The scale of this alleged fraud is unprecedented for the AFP,” AFP Deputy Commissioner Leanne Close said yesterday.
While Toni Brady's accounts have been frozen by the ATO amid the police operation, there's no suggestion she was involved in the conspiracy or knew anything about it.
What was evident during their relationship was Adam Cranston's big spending.
The Sydney woman told The Herald Sun that he paid her rent, for liposculpture on her bottom, an Omega watch, and more.
“He bought me jewellery. Diamond earrings, Hermes bracelets, handbags. My favourite are Dolce and Gabbana,” she said.
“He paid for my mum and I to go to the Maldives, and my girlfriend and I to go to Japan. I did solo trips too."
Catch the latest episode of Australian True Crime. Post continues below...
While it felt, she said, "like a Pretty Woman situation", Brady claims there was love between them and promises of a future.
Their relationship reportedly ended some time before Cranston's marriage last year, and the money stopped some time after that. While she was "heartbroken" he chose his now-wife over her, she wishes him the best.
“I got quite sad when I saw in the news that he had been arrested," she told The Herald Sun. "I hope he doesn’t go to jail.”