A Queensland salesperson has been ordered to pay more than $21,000 in penalties and compensation for dishonestly obtaining client funds for personal use.
Real estate sales agent Van-Thanh Pham was found guilty by the Richlands Magistrates Court on 13 March of one count of wrongfully converting bond money under the state’s Property Occupations Act 2014.
According to Queensland’s Office for Fair Trading, Ms Pham had lodged five applications with the state’s Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) to refund tenants’ bond money, which was done without the knowledge of those tenants, while working at Sunray Property Australia Pty Ltd, trading as Sunray Realty.
She then opened three separate bank accounts in her own name in an attempt to avoid suspicion, and deposited a total of $6,822 into those accounts for her own personal use, Fair Trading said.
The regulator was alerted to the situation after complaints that the funds had not been received by the intended recipients, as well as the RTA receiving incorrectly lodged tenant applications.
It said that the dispersal of funds took place between 1 November 2017 and 6 February 2018.
The court ordered Ms Pham to repay the monies to the affected tenants, and fined her a further $15,000.
“This matter was especially serious as it appears Ms Pham has set out to deceive vulnerable consumers for whom English is not their first language,” said Fair Trading’s acting executive director, Craig Turner.
“Bond money held by the RTA belongs to tenants, and the OFT will not tolerate members of the property industry treating it as their own.”
Sunray Realty did not respond to a request for comment. It is unclear if Ms Pham still works for the agency.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.