After pleading guilty to two charges of fraudulently converting more than $3.6 million dollars, the founder of real estate company Unique Estates Australia Pty Ltd, Ms Nicolette Van Wijngaarden, was yesterday sentenced to three years and six months in prison by the District Court, with a non-parole period of one year and nine months.
In sentencing Ms van Wijngaarden, Judge Pickering of the District Court accepted the money had been misused to support her real estate business.
However, Judge Pickering considered the offences were a significant breach of trust affecting the whole community, and that the Court could not endorse stealing to ensure that the business did not fail.
NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rose Webb said the outcome was a win for consumers while those impacted by the fraud were able to seek compensation through the NSW Property Services Compensation Fund.
“The matter is the largest case of real estate fraud known to NSW Fair Trading and comes after a Fair Trading investigation, with one charge reflecting the misappropriation of sales deposits and the other the misuse of rental payments made by tenants,” Ms Webb said.
“This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to ensure that real estate industry professionals are complying with the laws that govern their conduct. Most members are doing the right thing, but we have to make sure any that aren’t are investigated and dealt with appropriately.
“Fair Trading is proposing changes that enhance Continuing Professional Development standards as well and the rules of conduct for agents. We want to ensure that agents are delivering honest and transparent service to their customers,” Ms Webb said.
Ms Van Wijngaarden has the right to appeal.