Principal pleads innocence after fraud ruling

A real estate boss has been banned for seven years for what the regulator called an “extreme level of dishonesty”.

Teresa Janet Schouten, trading as Janet Schouten Real Estate, has been disqualified from holding any form of real estate licence or certificate for seven years, according to the Queensland Office of Fair Trading.

Ms Schouten has also been ordered to pay $9,900 by the Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal for the improper use of a trust account and falsifying evidence.

“The tribunal heard Ms Schouten misappropriated $1,988 worth of bond monies received from her tenants, paying them into her own general account instead of the business trust account,” according to Fair Trading.

“The tribunal also heard Ms Schouten falsified invoices and gave false evidence in prior tribunal proceedings for her own financial gain. The tribunal had awarded Ms Schouten $1,090.98 from tenants based on this falsified evidence.”

Ms Schouten’s failure to properly receipt money held on trust was ruled to have undermined the integrity of the industry and the confidence of the community.

Fair Trading said she failed to engage with the tribunal throughout proceedings and has not repaid amounts owing to the industry claim fund, which has compensated the affected consumers.

Ms Schouten denied all accusations and told REB she was in the process of appealing the decision.

“It’s my livelihood. I’ve already paid them some money; I don’t know what else they want me to do. I don’t understand it all,” she said.

“I had an appeal form sent to me and I’m processing it now. How do they expect me to pay the fine? My business was making $16,000 a year. This is ridiculous.”

Fair Trading executive director Brian Bauer said legislation regulating the conduct of real estate professionals is designed to protect the public and maintain a high standard of professionalism.

“This former agent displayed an extreme level of dishonesty, with the sole purpose of benefiting herself financially, to the detriment of consumers,” Mr Bauer said.

“The lengthy disqualification and fine are testament to the fact that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.”

[Related: Pressured real estate boss banned for fraud]

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