Real estate agent Daniel McNamara has pleaded guilty to breaching the Estate Agents Act 1980 by misusing trust account money totalling $155,000, according to Consumer Affairs Victoria.
McNamara, a Numurkah agent, pleaded guilty to the charge on 30 January and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
McNamara, a licensed agent since 2004, operated First National Real Estate Maurice McNamara and Co in Numurkah.
In the past six months, three offenders of trust account abuses have been imprisoned with a fourth sentenced to a community corrections order, in Victoria.
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Consumer Affairs Victoria director, Claire Noone, said that real estate agents will be caught if they abuse trust accounts, with a state-wide real estate agent trust account inspection program currently ongoing.
His 12 month sentence has nine months suspended for two years, and he was also ordered to pay Consumer Affairs Victoria’s legal costs.
McNamara is appealing the sentence, and magistrate Mary Kay Robertson said that he would have faced two years’ imprisonment if he had not pleaded guilty.
Noone, however, welcomed the court’s decision, saying it’s a warning to other agents.
“Consumer Affairs Victoria will not tolerate this kind of abuse of trust and the court’s decisions in these matters illustrates that offenders will not escape lightly,” Noone said.
“Victims are often Victorians making the biggest purchases of their lives, a family home. This crime ruins lives and the penalties are reflecting the serious damage it causes.”
The fraud was discovered in March last year, and after inspectors notified that they would be coming to his office to audit his account, he wrote to Consumer Affairs Victoria one day prior to the visit to confess taking the money.
Last year, Reservoir real estate agent Robert James Marshall, who failed to submit trust account records to Consumer Affairs Victoria, was been suspended for a year, reprimanded and fined $1,500.
Meanwhile, in October 2012 Melbourne estate agent Kon Balasis and Victorian Realty Group Pty Ltd (VRG), which operated as Century 21 Craigieburn, were been permanently disqualified by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) from holding estate agents’ licences after $167,000 was found missing from a trust account.
In August, Nadim Mindraoui, a former real estate agency accounts manager from Caroline Springs in Melbourne’s outer west, was been sentenced to a 15-month community correction order after taking about $160,000 of trust account money and using it for gambling.
This article first appeared on Property Observer.