Western suburbs estate agent charged for misusing trust funds

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Date
18 November 2022
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A former Taylors Hill real estate agent has been charged with misappropriating more than $100,000 in funds belonging to clients, offences which carry a maximum penalty of over $92,000 or ten years’ jail. 

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 allegedly removed $105,915 of clients’ money from his company’s trust account, between 26 April and 11 June 2019. 

Sales deposits, rent and advertising fees paid by clients are held in trust accounts and managing them is a core part of an agent’s responsibilities.  

Consumer Affairs Director Nicole Rich said agents who mismanaged trust accounts faced potential penalties including fines, losing their licence to practice, or jail for more serious offences. 

‘Clients reasonably expect the estate agents they engage to buy and sell their properties to fulfil their legal responsibilities, and not to place them at financial risk or disadvantage.’ 

Mr Vella has been charged under the Estate Agents Act 1980 with four counts each of having a deficiency in his trust account, and of wrongfully converting trust money to his own use.  

An audit by an external accounting firm first identified concerns with the trust account. 

The matter has been adjourned to a committal mention on 1 February 2023. 

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