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A former Springwood property manager has been fined $10,000 and banned from practising for 10 years for diverting rental payments to pay her own rent.
Sarah Ford, 33, stole the money while working for her brother’s agency, Progress Properties, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal recently heard.
There were 17 tenants and their respective landlords caught up in the theft, but the payments were diverted and reversed in a way that only financially affected Progress Properties.
Ms Ford stole $10,695.48 from January 2013 to February 2014. The tribunal, headed by Jeremy Gordon, also heard Ms Ford had made no attempt to repay the money.
Mr Gordon said Ms Ford diverted money from clients 26 times and made attempts to cover up her thefts by splitting the money into smaller amounts before using it to credit her account.
Ms Ford’s brother discovered the fraudulent payments when a tenant raised the alarm by arguing about their rent position. When questioned, Ms Ford denied the allegations and said that she made an honest mistake. Days later, he discovered a second discrepancy and launched a full investigation.
Mr Gordon said Ms Ford was well aware that she was stealing. “The division of the payments made … seems to have been done to keep the fraudulent transactions concealed for as long as possible,” he said.
Ms Ford, who received her real estate salesperson certificate just six months before the first theft, did not show up to the hearing and did respond to any correspondence from the Department of Justice.
Mr Gordon described the thefts as a breach of trust and said the hefty fine and ban imposed on Ford would “protect the public and to maintain public confidence in the industry”.
“There has been no money repaid by Ms Ford and there is nothing to show that she is remorseful in any way,” he said.
In determining his penalty, Mr Gordon said he needed to have regard to the fact that real estate agencies were entrusted with people’s money, and “utmost confidence” in the industry needed to be maintained.
Ms Ford has not faced any criminal proceedings.