A former real estate agent with a national property franchise has been jailed for five years for misappropriating millions of dollars of his clients’ money.
The former LJ Hooker franchisee Tri Duc Ngo, who also goes by Joseph Ngo, was also ordered to pay $2.1 million in compensation to cover costs paid out to victims, according to News Corp Australia.
An LJ Hooker spokesperson said that the network welcomes the judge’s decision.
“LJ Hooker wholly supports our industry being held to account for the trust customers place in the profession,” the spokesperson said.
“LJ Hooker worked closely with Consumer Affairs Victoria as soon as potential defalcation practices were uncovered in the branches involved. We are pleased this matter is closed off, along with the unequivocal warning it sends to rogue operators in the industry who betray this trust.”
At the trial, Ngo asked the judge to spare him from spending time behind bars, but the judge warned him to prepare for a stint in jail nonetheless.
Consumer Affairs Victoria had commenced criminal proceedings against Ngo, along with his wife Truc Thanh Le Nguyen, also known as Judy Nguyen, in early 2017.
The action was brought against the pair after they were embroiled in a scandal that shook Melbourne’s eastern and south-eastern suburbs last year, leaving home owners and tenants millions of dollars out of pocket.
After client complains about missing money surfaced in April last year, Ms Nguyen claimed that it had been lost after their office accounts had been hacked. She blamed Mr Ngo for the missing cash.
Ms Nguyen and Ngo were married at the time the alleged offences took place, but they are now believed to be separated.