A Victorian agent has been sentenced to imprisonment and must pay more than $200,000 in compensation after pleading guilty to trust account fraud offences.
Craigieburn estate agent Konstantinos Balasis was sentenced last month at Broadmeadows Magistrates Court to 12 months’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of six months.
Mr Balasis and his company, Victorian Realty Group Pty Ltd, were licensed estate agents, operating between 2009 and 2012.
The director of Consumer Affairs Victoria alleged that Mr Balasis was in breach of several components of the the Estate Agents Act 1980.
Mr Balasis converted to his own use $346,900, which he received as deposits on the sale of 12 Craigieburn townhouses, between January 2011 and August 2011. He took the money from the agency trust account and failed to return it
In April 2012, he also failed to pay two sellers of a property in Roxburgh Park $25,000 that he was holding on their behalf. Mr Balasis did give them a cheque for this money but the cheque bounced. He then gave them a replacement cheque but that also bounced
The following month, Mr Balasis failed to pay two home buyers a deposit of $35,995 - again, that he was holding on their behalf. They had decided not to go ahead with the purchase of a Craigieburn property and Mr Balasis gave them a cheque to refund their deposit, but that too bounced.
In July 2012, Mr Balasis failed to pay a $30,500 deposit to a vendor to which she was entitled after she sold her home. Again, the deposit was being held on her behalf.
In April last year, Consumer Affairs Victoria inspected Mr Balasis' records and seized documents from his agency, which led to the criminal prosecution.
Magistrate Patrick Southey said Mr Balasis’ offences were a breach of trust and left the community out of pocket since affected consumers made claims against the Victorian Property Fund.
The amounts involved were large and general deterrence was of high importance in this case, he said.
Mr Southey said he would have imposed a 20-month prison sentence with a 10-months' non-parole term had Mr Balasis not pleaded guilty. He was ordered to pay $203,992 in compensation for the Victorian Property Fund, and $1,400 in costs.
Mr Balasis has lodged an appeal against the sentence and was granted bail until the appeal is heard in the County Court of Victoria on 20 March 2014.