PHOTO: Real estate agent Nicolette Van Wijngaarden was sentenced to jail in November 2019 over trust account fraud.

Luxury real estate agent Nicolette Van Wijngaarden alone accounted for more than half of the $6 million-worth of trust account and rental bond fraud NSW authorities have prosecuted in the past 14 months. The state’s Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, said the tally showed agents in a fast-moving market they should not be tempted to illegally pocket money.

As CoreLogic figures on Monday revealed Sydney home values rose 0.4 per cent in January while those in regional NSW surged 1.6 per cent, Mr Anderson warned “rogue” players in the real estate industry that they should not treat money held in trust for clients as their personal expense accounts. 

“I am putting real estate agents on notice that if you attempt to fleece consumers you will be caught, prosecuted and potentially jailed,” Mr Anderson said.

“I have instructed [consumer watchdog] Fair Trading to stay on the case and they will continue to investigate any acts of dishonesty in regards to trust fund fraud.”

Abuse of trust accounts is a long-standing problem in residential real estate and has resulted in a string of convictions of former agents in the country’s two largest housing markets, including the 2019 sentencing of Van Wijngaarden to three years and six months in prison with a non-parole period of one year and nine months for the misappropriation of $3.7 million.