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Trials and tribulations: agent jailed for fraud

Apr 2016

The on-site manager of a Cairns apartment complex has been sentenced to 3 years jail for a range of residential tenancy offences and stealing more than $70,000 from the business trust account.

A joint investigation by the Residential Tenancies Authority and Queensland Police Service found on-site manager Petrina Suzanne Riley, 51, had failed to lodge bonds and provide receipts, failed to provide condition reports and failed to provide the proper tenancy information statements to tenants.

Ms Riley was also convicted of fraud for stealing over $70,000 of funds which include tenants’ bond payments and monies owed to property owners.

A total of 5 complaints were lodged by the RTA containing 26 charges. Ms Riley was ordered to pay $6,640 to the RTA as restitution for outstanding bond money for the tenants.

The court heard Ms Riley had a gambling addiction.

In sentencing Magistrate Alan Comans said 'licensed agents are 'obliged to protect tenants’ rights rather than causing them any direct monetary loss’.

He said the fraud was ‘not particularly sophisticated’ and was behaviour that was ‘reflective of a high degree of addiction’.

Magistrate Comans noted that Ms Riley had shown remorse by repaying $29,300 of the stolen funds and was ordered to pay the outstanding $35,915.52.

He noted Ms Riley had also suffered the loss of her business and it was likely she will not be relicensed as an agent again.

Ms Riley’s sentence of 3 years jail is to be suspended after 6 months.

RTA CEO Darren Barlow said the RTA wouldn’t hesitate to investigate and charge people who break tenancy laws.

"Failing to lodge bonds is a very serious offence and the RTA is working hard to ensure people who aren’t doing the right thing are held accountable," Mr Barlow said.

"The RTA responds to complaints as well as analysing existing databases of rental properties to identify potential cases for investigations.

"Anyone who has questions or suspects wrong doing shouldn’t hesitate to make an official complaint to the RTA."