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Loss of trust results in term of suspended imprisonment and fine for Springfield real estate agent

31 July 2020

A Springfield Lakes real estate agent and his company have been fined $2,500 and given a suspended sentence in the Ipswich Magistrates Court after being investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for taking money from a trust account they were not entitled to.

Kevin Roy Tomlinson, principal licensee and sole director of Exposure Real Estate (QLD) Pty Ltd, pleaded guilty to wrongfully transferring money from a rental trust account to his company’s expense account over a seven-month period.

The company was fined $2,500 and Mr Tomlinson was ordered to serve four months’ imprisonment, wholly suspended for two years.

The court heard that, from December 2018 to June 2019, Mr Tomlinson made a series of withdrawals totalling over $100,000 from his company’s rental trust account and used the money for a variety of business expenses including loan and lease repayments and staff wages.

Under the Property Occupations Act 2014, it is an offence to use trust money, which is money belonging to someone else, in this way. Trust money can only be released to a person who is entitled to it.

In sentencing, Magistrate Virginia Sturgess commented on the seriousness of the offending and abuse of the agent’s position of trust. She also took into account that the agent had partially repaid the money before the involvement of the OFT and that the remainder of the money had been repaid prior to being charged.

Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said the case was a reminder to real estate agents that they have a responsibility to those they represent and that trust account funds are off limits for personal or business use.

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

“Agents are able to get advice from legal and financial professionals as well as 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.