A former real estate agent has received a two-year Community Corrections Order and must complete 100 hours of community service after being found guilty of trust account offences.
Harald Simon Michaelis, 58, of Pascoe Vale, was found guilty of charges related to causing a deficiency of trust money and fraudulently converting money received by him as an estate agent, after pleading guilty to the charges under the Estate Agents Act 1980.
Mr Michaelis was employed with Boston & Brighton Property Consultants Pty Ltd (ACN 603 647 703) at the time he committed the offences between January and March 2019. The agency’s office, in Narre Warren, closed in May 2021 and the company is now deregistered.
In early January 2019, a vendor submitted a complaint to Consumer Affairs Victoria after Mr Michaelis failed to deposit funds into their account following the sale and settlement of a property.
In mid-January 2019, Mr Michaelis then self-reported to Consumer Affairs Victoria claiming he was having difficulties managing a trust account.
During this time, he also converted client money from the Boston & Brighton trust account to his own use.
Mr Michaelis pleaded guilty to two charges:
- between 5 January 2019 and 7 March 2019, he caused a deficiency of trust money of $46,520, and
- between 5 January 2019 and 7 March 2019, he fraudulently converted $23,763.66 to his own use.
Consumers suffered stress and financial loss as a result of Mr Michaelis' offending. Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria, Nicole Rich, said that Consumer Affairs Victoria viewed trust account obligations very seriously and would continue to take action against agents who misused client funds.
Consumer Affairs Victoria is currently prosecuting four other estate agents for alleged misuse of clients' trust money.
Consumer Affairs Victoria also handed out 117 infringement notices amounting to more than $120,000 and official warnings to estate agents who did not lodge their trust account audit reports during 2020.