PHOTO: Vecteezy

A real estate agent convicted of fraud in connection with a rent-to-buy scheme targeting vulnerable individuals is back in court, seeking to overturn her conviction.

Sheree Becker, aged 43, received a three and a half year jail sentence in November last year, following a unanimous jury verdict on seven counts of fraud against the ANZ bank. The Victorian County Court determined that she had specifically targeted individuals with limited financial resources and no means of repaying their mortgages. Acting as both buyer and seller agent for properties, Becker was found guilty of fabricating documents and inflating prices.

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During sentencing, Judge Michael McInerney described the crimes as a deliberate assault on the banking system, characterized by persistent, premeditated, and sophisticated criminal behavior.

Appearing before the Victorian Court of Appeal in a prison uniform, Becker’s lawyer, Dermot Dann KC, argued for the conviction to be overturned, citing the trial judge’s “extraordinary” conduct. Dann highlighted multiple instances where Judge McInerney intervened during the “messy” trial, a behavior he deemed unusual. He raised concerns that the judge’s involvement may have unfairly influenced the prosecution’s case and cast doubt on Becker’s defense.

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In response to the appeal, a crown prosecutor acknowledged the judge’s high level of engagement as unusual but maintained that Becker’s conviction was justified based on strong documentary evidence. The prosecutor suggested that the judge’s interventions only contributed to confusion and did not enhance the prosecution’s case.

The three presiding justices reserved their judgment for a later date, acknowledging the unusual level of intervention by the trial judge and its potential implications on the case’s outcome.

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