Peton Properties director on trial for obtaining $2.6 million of funds by deception

Anthony Nicholls, from Mitcham, Victoria will stand trial in the Victorian County Court next year for allegedly obtaining more than $2.6 million of funds from investors by deception in his role as director of Peton Properties and Zantholls International Pty Ltd between 2004 and 2006.

In 2007, Peton Properties went into liquidation. It owed creditors more than $4 million.

After a week-long committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, 61 year old Nicholls has been told to stand trial on 11 May 2015, with the expected length of the trial being three months.

Charged with 113 counts of breaching his duties as director, three counts of making false and misleading statements, 19 counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one count of obtaining property by deception, he has pleaded not guilty. Each of the 113 charges carries a maximum penalty of five years jail, or a $220,000 fine, with each of the misleading and false statements carry 10 years jail or $495,000 in fines.

About 20 people suffered losses, after investing $2.68 million with the companies. The money was going to be used to fund Ballarat developments, however ASIC alleges that the developments were unable to be developed in the manner nor in the timeframe described.

They also allege that Nicholls authorised a $1,806,000 withdrawal from a Peton Properties bank account and a solicitors’ trust account for use for his own benefit and that of co-director Peter Scully, financial obligations of another related company The Key Result Pty Ltd and interest payments due to existing investors.

The Key Result Pty Ltd trademarked the term “THE KEY RESULT UNLOCK YOUR FUTURE”. According to Consumer Action Law Centre, the company promoted a form of rent-to-buy arrangement that included a personal savings plan and budgeting service.

key_result

Logo for The Key Result Pty Ltd

“As well as facilitating the entry of a prospective purchaser into a rent-to-buy arrangement with a third party investor, The Key Result Pty Ltd provided staff who would not only oversee the day-to-day spending of a prospective purchaser, but would in fact exclusively control his or her bank account,” Consumer Action notes.

They note that many were placed in extreme financial hardship through the scheme, being forced to reduce spending to an extent to be able to afford rental and purchase option payments on properties they were unable to afford. The Key Result Pty Ltd is no longer operating.

The Key Result Pty Ltd’s director Peter Scully (aforementioned co-director of Peton Properties) was also director of Active Property Solutions Pty Ltd, and has seen Consumer Affairs Victoria allege that they brokered deals that the buyers could not afford, according to The Herald Sun back in 2008. The outcome of the case can be read here. The schemes, aimed at first time buyers, were advertised in the Gippsland and Doveton areas, as well as in the Geelong Advertiser newspaper.

The court transcript suggests that advertisements read along the lines of:

WHY ARE YOU PAYING RENT?

$750pw net combined or single income gets you your own home at competitive rates

As well as:

DOES THIS SOUND LIKE YOU?

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Employed or Self Employed?

Tired of Renting?

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But desperately want to

OWN YOUR OWN HOME?

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This article first appeared on Property Observer.

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