Three agents are facing prison time and a fourth offender has been sentenced since the start of Victoria’s trust account inspection program.
Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) director Claire Noone said the success of the agency's ongoing state-wide real estate agent trust account inspection program sends a clear message to those tempted to abuse trust accounts.
When CAV alerted the principal of First National Real Estate in Numurkah, Daniel McNamara, of an upcoming audit in March last year, he admitted to CAV that he had taken $155,000 from the trust account.
Last week, Mr McNamara pleaded guilty to taking the money and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and ordered to pay legal costs.
While Mr McNamara could not be contacted, CAV claims he is appealing the decision.
According to Magistrate Mary Kay Robertson, Mr McNamara would have faced two years' imprisonment if he had not pleaded guilty.
Ms Noone welcomed the court's decision and said the sentence is a warning to estate agents and others responsible for trust accounts that any wrongdoing will result in severe penalties.
"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," Ms Noone said.
"There is no excuse for agents to flout the law. Consumer Affairs Victoria provides assistance for estate agents to ensure they understand and meet their obligations - you do the wrong thing and prison awaits."
The sentence comes after a number of other trust account breaches in Victoria, with Melinda McIntyre sentenced to four months imprisonment for misappropriation of $73,799.80 from a trust account.
In November, Craigieburn estate agent Konstantinos Balasis was sentenced to imprisonment and ordered to pay more than $200,000 in compensation after pleading guilty to trust account fraud offences.
And in July last year, Nadim Mindraoui was sentenced to a community corrections order for 15 months, including a requirement to perform 60 hours of unpaid community service for trust account fraud offences.