Real estate agents have been warned about their responsibility when handling clients' trust money, after one agent was convicted and fined for stealing a couple's deposit.
The Canberra agent, Mark Blinksell, who was the sole director of Grapevine Real Estate, stole the $22,000 deposit to pay off his own family home loan.
For his part in the fraud Mr Blinksell has been fined $10,000 and handed a six-month suspended prison sentence, and a three-year good behaviour bond.
"The outcome of this matter demonstrates how seriously the ACT government takes breaches of the law by real estate agents when it comes to trust money,” said ACT commissioner for fair trading Brett Phillips.
“Real estate agents regularly handle large sums of money for their clients, and it is vital they understand the gravity of such a responsibility,” he added.
The fraud itself happened earlier this year when Mr Blinksell received a cheque for $22,000, which was the deposit for the purchase of a property.
This money was to be held in trust for a couple until their sale contract was completed.
However, Mr Blinksell paid the cheque into his business transaction account and proceeded to transfer $11,000 into a home loan account under the name of his wife and daughter.
He later transferred a further $5,000 to the home loan account, and then spent the remainder of the trust money on incidental expenses.
The ACT Office of Regulatory Services investigated the matter and proceeded to take Mr Blinksell to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for disciplinary action.
Mr Blinksell’s real estate and business agent licences were cancelled and he was disqualified from applying for the licences again for a period of five years.
The matter was heard on 1 July before the ACT Magistrates Court for the criminal component of the offences.