A Sydney real estate agent has been jailed for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from her client’s trust accounts, as fair trading authorities crack down on what they say is a growing problem.

Louise Catherine Sultana admitted to siphoning $330,000 from the accounts of a Century 21 agency between 2010 and 2012. The pregnant 25-year-old was handed an 18-month jail term with a seven-month non-parole period.

She is the latest of a number of agents around the country to be prosecuted for stealing tens of millions of dollars from the trust accounts of unwitting clients.

Court documents show some agents caught dipping into trust accounts had drug addictions or gambling problems. In August last year, former LJ Hooker agent Patrick Scott was jailed for 16 months after siphoning around $800,000 from trust accounts to feed his gambling habit.

Authorities also say many agents take the money to prop up their own business accounts, with every intention of repaying it, but in the end never do. Illawarra couple Roger and Gordana Ocvirk were jailed late last year after stealing $1.4 million from trust accounts.

In Queensland last year, the Office of Fair Trading investigated 145 agents for breaches of trust account laws. Of those, 95 faced enforcement action

In June, a Brisbane agent was jailed for five years after he was convicted of misappropriating over $400,000 from trust accounts.

In Victoria it is a similar story. Consumer Affairs Victoria says three agents have been jailed in the past six months and a fourth sentenced to a community corrections order.

What can you do to prevent such cases happening at your agency?

  1. Ensure staffs are given limited access to trust accounting software.
  2. NEVER give full bank authorities to any staff or external service providers.
  3. Conduct random checks on bank account details, to ensure all payments made are legitimate, If possible, rotate staff functions.

Source: ABC News