Western suburbs estate agent sentenced for misusing trust funds

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4 July 2023
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A former real estate agent who misused more than $100,000 in funds belonging to clients has been convicted, received a two-year Community Corrections Order, and must complete 350 hours of community service.

Lawrence Paul Vella, 44, of Taylors Hill, was the Officer in Effective Control of Prestige Property Agents (Vic) Pty Ltd (ACN 150 718 200) when he removed $105,915 of clients’ money from his company’s trust account, between 26 April and 11 June 2019.

He was sentenced last week at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to two charges under the Estate Agents Act, each involving four occasions of causing a deficiency in a trust account and wrongfully converting trust money. All the money was repaid.

Mr Vella’s actions were uncovered through an audit carried out by Prestige’s parent company, Pelligra Group Pty Ltd.

Consumer Affairs Director Nicole Rich said the court outcome was a strong reminder to agents that they will be held accountable if they misuse trust account funds.

Ms Rich said the case also highlighted the importance of conducting regular trust account audits, which in this case uncovered illegal conduct that could have become worse over time.

‘Managing trust account funds is a core responsibility for estate agents, and clients should not have to fear that their funds will be used for personal gain,’ she said.

'Consumer Affairs Victoria will continue to investigate and take action against agents who put clients’ money at risk and tarnish the industry’s reputation'.