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A breach of trust - agent sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, wholly suspended, and permanently disqualified from the industry

31 May 2019

Former Shailer Park and Gold Coast real estate agent Robert Ian Campbell was convicted in the Beenleigh Magistrates court today (31 May 2019) after being charged by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for misusing clients’ trust account money.

The 69-year-old was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, wholly suspended, with an operational period of 18 months.

In sentencing, Magistrate Don MacKenzie took into account Mr Campbell’s circumstances and ordered a prison sentence because Mr Campbell, as a pensioner with no assets, had no capacity to pay a fine or compensation.

Mr Campbell, formerly the principal licensee of Realty Brokers Pty Ltd, pleaded guilty to 12 charges under the Property Occupations Act 2014 for making unauthorised withdrawals of funds from a trust account and for dishonestly converting trust account money to his own use.

In June 2018, Mr Campbell pleaded guilty on behalf of Realty Brokers Pty Ltd to 11 charges relating to unauthorised trust account withdrawals totalling $121,000. The agency was fined $5,000.

At that time, Mr Campbell avoided personal prosecution by putting a plan in place to repay the money without any consumers suffering financial loss.

Mr Campbell did not meet his agreement to repay the monies after Realty Brokers Pty Ltd was placed into liquidation on 25 June 2018 and as a result he was prosecuted by the OFT for the original charges, and one additional charge of misappropriating funds that led to a shortfall of $24,000 in the agency’s sales trust account.

In sentencing, Magistrate MacKenzie said Mr Campbell’s conduct was a “serious matter involving defalcation of trust money”.

He noted there was a statutory obligation on real estate agents to receive trust money and to deal with it in accordance with the legislation.

“This sentence sends a message to the real estate industry that this type of conduct will not be tolerated and offenders will face serious consequences for their actions.”

Fair Trading Acting Executive Director Craig Turner said real estate agents must not misuse trust money.

“Money held in trust does not belong to real estate agents and it must only ever be disbursed to the person entitled to it,” Mr Turner said.

“This is a legal requirement.”

“The OFT will continue to investigate allegations of real estate agents who are not meeting this requirement and will take action where necessary.”

The OFT’s Trust Account Guide is a handy booklet summarising agents’ trust account obligations and contains important information for auditors. Copies can be downloaded free of charge or a printed copy can be ordered from www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.

Anyone who has concerns about real estate trust account anomalies or misappropriation of trust account funds should lodge a complaint with the OFT using our online form.