A Victorian real estate agent will spend at least 20 months in jail after being found guilty of misappropriating around $1.9 million in trust money.
Anthony Vito Brancatella pleaded guilty in County Court of Victoria to more than 60 charges of wrongful conversion and false accounts, relating to his time as director of McDonald Real Estate in Mulgrave.
As a result, Judge Carolyn Douglas sentenced Brancatella to 40 months jail time, with a non-parole period of 20 months.
An investigation by Consumer Affairs Victoria found that between December 2013 and June 2014 Brancatella siphoned money from the agency’s trust account in order to keep the business afloat.
Consumer Affairs Victoria found that in total Brancatella siphoned a total of $1,999,020 for his own use from 62 separate property transactions.
Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria Simon Cohen said abuse of trust-account management were unacceptable.
“Community confidence in how real estate agents deal with trust money is absolutely critical. Any real estate agent who breaches this confidence, and takes money from a trust account without proper authority, is committing a crime,” Cohen said.
“While most estate agents are doing the right thing, we will pursue any agent who is not meeting their legal obligations,” he said.
Brancatella’s conviction means he is also disqualified from working as a real estate agent for the next 10 years under the Estate Agents Act 1980.
Consumer Affairs Victoria has currently paid more than $500,000 to victims of Brancatella’s fraud from the state’s Victorian Property Fund, which was established to compensate any consumer who suffers a financial loss by reason of an estate agent stealing from a trust account.
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