Real estate agent's $3.6m fraud is 'largest case ever'
THE FORMER director of a failed luxury real estate agent has had many of the allegations against her withdrawn.
But Nicolette van Wijngaarden has pleaded guilty to two charges relating to the fraudulent misuse of more than $3.6 million in the largest case of real estate fraud ever recorded by NSW Fair Trading.
Criminal proceedings against the 44-year-old, the former director of Byron Bay-based Unique Estates, was launched in September 2017.
She originally faced 10 charges of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and five counts of directors' liability by offences of corporation.
It's understood Unique Estates had more than $1.5 million in liabilities, including $933,000 owed to the Australian Tax Office when the company collapsed in February last year, leaving some 35 staff without work.
Before the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney last week, van Wijngaarden entered guilty pleas to charges of directors' liability for offences of a corporation and a licensee fraudulently converting money equalling more than $5000.
Ten counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception and three further counts of directors' liability for offences of a corporation were withdrawn and dismissed.
NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rose Webb said van Wijngaarden's pleas were a positive step.
She said Fair Trading conducts compliance operations several times a year, aimed at boosting standards across the real estate sector.
"Following on from these operations, Fair Trading takes all disciplinary and enforcement action necessary, to ensure that people misusing trust money are adequately punished," Ms Webb said.
"This case should act as a deterrent to all real estate agents - Fair Trading has no tolerance for agents misusing funds or other fraudulent behaviour."
Ms Webb said one of the charges subject to a guilty plea related to "the misappropriation of sales deposits" while the other related to "the misuse of rental payments by tenants".
Ms van Wijngaarden remains on bail, which was granted in August last year and her matter was adjourned to July 12.
Unique Estates, which she founded in 2008, had 31 properties listed in the Byron Shire, on the Gold Coast, in other parts of Queensland as well as Western Australia at the time the business crumbled.