A director of a south coast real estate agency has avoided jail after pleading guilty to defrauding clients of almost $800,000.
Appearing in Parramatta
District Court last week, Megan Ann Harrod, a director and company secretary of Warilla based J &M Harrod Pty Ltd trading as Harrods Real Estate was sentenced to imprisonment for a period of two years to be served by way of an Intensive Corrections Order commencing on Friday 25 September 2015.
In December 2013 Harrod pleaded guilty to two charges of fraudulently converting money as a licensee, relating to $789,000 taken from the company's rent trust account and sales trust account.
An examination of the licensee’s accounts by the NSW Office of Fair Trading found numerous deficiencies in Harrods Real Estate’s rent and sales trust accounts and uncovered falsified corporate book keeping records created to disguise and hide the fraud.
Investigators also established that Harrod had engaged in a type of ‘kite flying’ - manipulating the monthly rental trust account reconciliation by drawing cheques for the payment of fictitious disbursements at the end of each calendar month in order to give the false appearance the account was balanced - to cover up for her unauthorised withdrawals.
The court heard that Harrod appeared to suffer from a gambling problem, based on poker machine activity statements obtained from the Western Suburbs Leagues Club Illawarra and Shellharbour Workers Club.
In sentencing the court took into account the fact the Harrod family had repaid money to the NSW Property Services Compensation Fund.
Fair Trading commissioner Rod Stowe said the consumer protection agency would continue to crack down on real estate agents who commit serious fraud such as trust account misappropriation.
“Landlords, tenants and home owners are entitled to feel confident the significant sums of money they rely real estate agents to hold in trust for them are kept securely in designated trust accounts and the money used for the intended purposes,” Stowe said.
Harrod was permanently banned from working in the real estate industry in 2013.
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