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Agent uses rent payments to buy crypto currency

A Nambour real estate agent has been fined $20,000 and given a 10-year licence disqualification after being investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for using rent money to buy crypto currency and for other personal expenses.

Wendy Lynette Savage, sole operator of Belbri Properties, pleaded guilty in the Nambour Magistrates Court on 6 June 2022 to wrongfully transferring money from a rental trust account to her personal account for crypto currency trading.

The court heard that, from July 2020 to June 2021, Ms Savage made a series of withdrawals totalling over $240,000 from her business’s rental trust account and used the money for a variety of personal and business expenses including investing in crypto trading and paying for subscription services.

Ms Savage was charged with one count of wrongful conversion and was fined $20,000. A conviction was not recorded but Ms Savage was disqualified from holding a real estate licence or certificate for 10 years.

The decision took into account that all trust money had been repaid before sentencing.

Under the Property Occupations Act 2014, it is an offence for a licensee to use trust money for any purpose other than what it was intended for as the money belongs to someone else.

Commissioner for Fair Trading Victoria Thomson said the case was a reminder to real estate agents that trust account funds are off limits.

“Agents who fail to comply with their trust account obligations will incur serious penalties,” Ms Thomson said.

“Agents are able to get advice from legal and financial professionals as well as from the OFT if they have questions regarding trust accounts.”

Details on trust account obligations, including a guide for property agents, are available on the OFT website at www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.