Investors cheated out of millions

By Jay Garcia and Georgia Brown

Numerous landlords have lost property deposits and are owed rental payments after six real estate offices misappropriated millions of dollars, causing the franchises to collapse.

Six LJ Hooker franchises have been taken over by Consumer Affairs Victoria after about 110 landlords and clients were left millions of dollars out of pocket.

LJ Hooker franchisees Joseph Ngo and Judy Thanh Truc (also known as Judy Nguyen) are at the centre of the sudden collapse of agencies in Glen Waverley, Keysborough, Mount Waverley, Burwood, Doncaster and Box Hill, according to Fairfax Media.

Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett said victims would get their money back through the Victorian Property Fund, which is worth more than $400 million, and has appointed Garry McLean of PPB Advisory as statutory manager.

Mr McLean has been instructed to reconstruct records, deal with outstanding consumer, landlord and tenant transactions, wind down the business, and write to all known landlords whose properties were under management with these offices to advise them of their options.

LJ Hooker has since formed a specialist team to support Mr McLean and the franchise is working closely with Consumer Affairs Victoria to assist in their ongoing investigation.

On Friday, Ms Truc claimed the trust accounts had been hacked and on Saturday told Fairfax Media in a series of text messages and phone conversations that she was the victim of an elaborate conspiracy.

While maintaining her innocence concerning the trust account irregularities, Ms Truc said she accepts full responsibility and is currently working with authorities.

LJ Hooker chief executive Grant Harrod said trust account mismanagement is a contagion within the real estate sector that needs to be handled collectively.

“We need to respond as a group, as an industry collective in making sure that we’re all undertaking everything that we can to help people so we don’t allow them to fall into temptation,” Mr Harrod told Smart Property Investment’s sister publication REB.

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