A former Glen Waverley estate agent has been sentenced to five years’ jail, after pleading guilty to 48 charges of misusing more than $6 million of his clients’ money, in breach of the Estate Agents Act 1980.
Tri Duc Ngo (also known as Joseph Ngo), 37, operated six LJ Hooker franchises with his wife and business partner, Judy Nguyen, under the name JNT Law Investments Pty Ltd.
Consumer Affairs Victoria took action in the County of Victoria, after our investigations in 2016 revealed that, among other things, JNT Investment’s trust account was overdrawn by more than $150,000. An independent auditor also advised us of trust account irregularities.
At various times between 2013 and 2016, Mr Ngo’s offences included:
- transferring money from the company’s sales trust account to another JNT account, without the knowledge or consent of the client
- giving vendors general bank account details to make deposits, instead of the required trust account details
- transferring money from the required rental account into a general company account
- instructing company employees to purchase properties without the vendors’ knowledge.
The Victorian Property Fund (VPF) provides financial compensation to consumers who have been affected by an estate agent’s misuse of money. The VPF has paid out approximately $2.1 million to affected consumers in relation to this matter.
As well as the jail term, Mr Ngo must also repay the VPF the amount it paid out due to his offending.
Ms Nguyen has pleaded not guilty to similar charges. She will face trial at a later date.
Under Victorian laws, an estate agent has strict obligations to deposit clients’ money into a relevant trust account in certain situations. For more information, view our What is an estate agent trust account page.