Incorrect trust account use results in sour grapes
A Mackay real estate agent was fined $6000 by the Mackay Magistrates Court today (9 January 2018) for the improper use of trust accounts, following an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation.
Cheryl Elaine Gilbert, previous owner of Mackay Real Estate Pty Ltd, pleaded guilty to 12 charges relating to improperly converting trust account funds and failing to correctly record trust account receipts. She also failed to provide the OFT with trust account information and documents.
Ms Gilbert was fined $3000 and Mackay Real Estate was fined a further $3000.
The court heard on two occasions between 11 October and 2 November 2016, Ms Gilbert fraudulently converted a total of $653.20 from the business trust account for unauthorised personal use, including the payment of employee wages and subscriptions.
During this time, Ms Gilbert also incorrectly filled in trust account receipts to the tune of $4994 for her customers.
In sentencing, the court noted Ms Gilbert’s early guilty plea and the fact she had reimbursed the account and no consumers were out of pocket.
Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said any improper use of trust accounts was not a matter to be taken lightly.
“Trust account money does not represent a piggybank that agents can dip into for personal or business use,” Mr Bauer said.
“Money deposited into trust accounts may only be used for the expenses of, and payment to, the client for whom the money was received.
“The OFT will continue to take appropriate action, including prosecution, against any agents found in breach of their legal obligations.”
More information on the obligations of property agents is available from www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading or by calling 13 QGOV (13 74 68).