Bill Vlahos sold himself as a horse racing expert who had a foolproof method of picking winners and motivating others to enjoy the ride with him. Instead, he took punters for mugs and defrauded friends, family and others of $17.5 million over six years in a scam a County Court judge labelled breathtaking in its audacity. Vlahos was on Friday jailed for nine years, to serve six years before he is eligible for parole, for ripping off 71 people in a large-scale punters club he ran between 2008 and 2013. The impact of the financial losses left some feeling stupid and naive, others angry and many regretful for recruiting others. Some were later diagnosed with mental health problems, others reported lost friendships and a strain on family relationships, while the emotional and financial toll ended several marriages. Judge Trapnell said Vlahos’ deceptions and persistent offending – which continued into 2013 even though his scheme was near collapse and police were investigating – had a devastating and traumatic impact on many. “I assess your moral culpability as being very high,” he told the 56-year-old, who watched the online sentence from prison. “It is clear you must have known the impact your offending would have on the victims. “Yet you continued your deceptive scheme unrelenting and unrepentant. The audaciousness of your behaviour is breathtaking.” Vlahos splurged some money invested in The Edge on a $165,000 holiday house in Torquay, a $30,000 jacuzzi, a $71,000 Audi and a $150,000 Lexus, and first-class holidays to Singapore and Dubai. He also used punters’ money to buy racehorses to give himself extra clout in the industry. Judge Trapnell said there was no suggestion Ms Vlahos knew of the scam or was complicit in her husband’s crimes. He accepted Vlahos was motivated by “sheer greed, a need for personal financial gain and a desire for self-aggrandisement”.