Agents warned about mother-daughter fraudsters

Agents warned about mother-daughter fraudsters

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Victorian agents are being warned against dealing with a mother-daughter duo who have been purchasing properties they have no intention of paying for.

Sharnee Brannon and her mother Debbie have been buying luxury homes in Melbourne, but never follow through in paying the deposit. 

Director of Eview Real Estate Partners Arthur Proios has told Real Estate Business how the two women came to his attention after they failed to pay the deposit for a family house in Langwarrin in June this year.

The property was being sold at a value of over $950,000 and the Brannons made an unconditional offer of $1.2 million.

On the day the contract was signed, the women claimed they did not have the money to pay the 10 per cent deposit and needed time to withdraw it from the bank. The agent and vendor accepted their explanation as a legitimate response and an agreement was made for another date and time that the payment would be delivered.

Over a period of a week, the women made repeated excuses for delaying their payment, such as the death of a dog and that the father had been diagnosed with cancer. 

The agency subsequently contacted the women’s conveyancers to place pressure on them to follow through with the contract. They eventually found that the women had no money in their bank account.

“We were just sick in the guts,” Mr Proios said. “We just couldn’t believe it.”

When contacted, the vendor sought to have the contract cancelled but this was not possible due to legalities of a rescission, which required a two-week waiting period for the buyers to respond.  

During this time, the situation was excerbated by the women’s continual text messages explaining why payment had to be delayed.

In one text message, the women said that her grandfather had passed away and they needed time to grieve.

The agency re-opened the property for inspections and it was successfully sold in August for under one million dollars on the day the rescission ended.

Mr Proios said he investigated the women and discovered they had previously done the same thing with four other properties, even offering up to $4.5 million for one house.

He had also contacted the Fraud Squad but despite the officer agreeing there had been a pattern of repeated offences, there was no proof of fraudulent activity.

In Mr Proios’ case, the women had not used aliases, had provided a copy of a driver’s licence and they had not signed a cheque they could not commit to.

The profile of Sharnee and Debbie Brannon was raised when A Current Affair aired a story last week. It led to a barrage of comments on the program’s Facebook page from individuals who wrote that the two women had also been scamming local car yards.  

Mr Proios said the implication of the case was for his agency to potentially enforce a strict policy requiring buyers to pay their deposit on the day the contract was signed, with no special conditions.

“I’ve sold hundreds of homes with special conditions that the initial deposit be paid within 24 hours. Usually, people pay it and we have no issue. These people are bogus. They did it for the laughs," he said.

“My message to agents is to be as diligent as possible and keep abreast of your local institute’s newsletters and notices that may go out warning their members of such people.”

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