A former Sydney real estate agent has been sentenced to a 20-month intensive correction order after mishandling $187 500 from his clients.
In a media statement released on Friday, NSW Fair Trading said Chung Tran was the sole director of Empire Pty Ltd, who in late 2010 entered into an agreement to be the sales agent for the Horizon Project, a mixed-use development in Parramatta.
Buyers were refused their money back
Between November 2010 and March 2012, the company received deposits for off the plan apartments. Construction was scheduled to start in June 2011 with the strata plans to be registered in December 2013.
In late 2013, it emerged the building’s strata plan had not been registered. Buyers cancelled their contracts and asked for their money back but were refused.
NSW Fair Trading subsequently investigated Empire’s bank records, which revealed that soon after each deposit was received the money was moved elsewhere instead of being held in trust.
Case should be a deterrent to others
“Most real estate agents are doing the right thing, but we have to make sure any that aren’t are investigated and dealt with appropriately,” Valerie Griswold, Fair Trading NSW Executive Director of Investigation and Enforcement, said.
“This case should act as a deterrent to all real estate agents. There can be no tolerance for misusing funds or other fraudulent behaviour.”
Tran pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud under the Property, Stock & Business Agents Act in Parramatta Local Court and was sentenced to a 20 months Intensive Correction Order along with 300 hours of community service.
In 2017, Fair Trading disqualified Tran from being involved in the management or conduct of a real estate agent business for a period of six years.
Several other realtors have been in trouble
A number of real estate agents have fallen foul of the law in recent years.
In February this year, the former director of Guncom Pty Ltd, Alice Gunning, was convicted of four breaches of the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002 and sentenced to a 12-month intensive correction order in addition to fines totalling $1 150.
The sentence was the result of a NSW Fair Trading investigation, initiated after it was discovered that a Guncom employee had misappropriated rental bond money. The investigations lead to charges being brought against Gunning and Guncom.
Large trust account fraud case
In November 2019, the high-profile founder of Unique Estates which operated in Sydney’s most prosperous suburbs, Nicolette Van Wijngaarden, was sentenced to three years and six months in jail after pleading guilty to a $3.69 million trust account fraud, the largest crime of its kind in NSW.
At around the same time in Victoria, Simone Semmens, a former TV presenter and beauty queen, was sentenced to two years and 10 months in jail for Goods and Services Tax (GST) fraud of $1.7 million.
Semmens purchased, developed and sold 10 luxury properties for a profit of $4.4 million, but failed to remit GST or register her business for GST.