Judy Nguyen, the former franchisee of six LJ Hooker real estate agencies, jailed

Judy Nguyen, the former franchisee of six LJ Hooker real estate agencies, jailed
Judy Nguyen, the former franchisee of six LJ Hooker real estate agencies, jailed

Judy Nguyen, the former franchisee of six LJ Hooker real estate agencies in Melbourne’s outer east has been jailed for nearly two years after admitting to wrongfully converting more than $800,000 in deposits from home buyers for her own use.

Truc Thanh Le Nguyen, also known as Judy Nguyen, pleaded guilty to 11 counts of wrongful conversion of sales deposits totalling $809,016, transferred from a trust account.

Nguyen must serve a minimum of eight months behind bars before being eligible for parole.

Nguyen had previously maintained her innocence in the matter, before making a late guilty plea on May 27.

There was no explanation from Consumer Affairs Victoria on the matter of the reduced number of charges as it had previously advised that Nguyen had been charged with 216 offences.

Her husband Joseph Ngo was sentenced to five years’ jail for his role in the scheme last year.

 
Judy Nguyen, the former franchisee of six LJ Hooker real estate agencies, jailed
Judy Nguyen and her husband Tri Duc Ngo who is currently in jail.

The 11 counts related to sales in Glen Waverley, Deer Park, Caroline Springs, Narre Warren, Berwick, Dandenong, Docklands and Parkdale.

Judge Michael Bourke said he had weighed up the seriousness of Nguyen’s offences, her guilty plea, her otherwise good character along with the pleas put forward by her defence lawyer Alan Marshall which included difficulties in her life.

Judge Bourke also weighed up Nguyen’s offending against that of her husband, who led the scheme.

“This was a serious failure in trust,” Judge Bourke said. 

Nguyen was a franchisee of the LJ Hooker office in Glen Waverley with branches in Keysborough, Box Hill, Mount Waverley, Doncaster and Burwood where she worked with Ngo.

All offices suddenly closed in April 2016 under Consumer Affairs Victoria investigation into their trust accounts after complaints were made.

Ngo was jailed in March last year for a maximum of five years, and minimum of three years, for his role in misappropriating $6.4 million from the office’s trust accounts, between January 2015 and March 2016.

Ngo, a drug addict, spent over $2 million of that on clothing, jewellery and drugs, including ice. It included spending $110,000 at the high-end jewellery shop Tiffany & Co.

Court documents lodged by Mr Ngo's lawyer, Erol Cinar, described the father of four as a "deeply religious" man who had an untreated "severe schizoaffective disorder". 

The Victorian Property Fund (VPF) provides financial compensation to consumers who have been affected by an estate agent’s misuse of money. The VPF has paid out $2.1 million to affected consumers in relation to the conduct of Ms Nguyen and Mr Ngo.

Being a private company LJ Hooker, which cancelled six franchise licenses that Ngo and his wife managed in Melbourne, has never publicly explained just how the head office allowed the couple to secure such a footprint in its Melbourne network.

Corporate records show their initial office was Glen Waverley in early 2013.

LJ HOOKER BURWOOD VIC External site 22 Dec 2014  
LJ HOOKER Keysborough External site 22 Dec 2014  
LJ HOOKER MOUNT WAVERLEY External site 22 Dec 2014  
LJ HOOKER DONCASTER External site 16 Dec 2013  
LJ HOOKER BOX HILL External site 13 Dec 2013  
LJ HOOKER GLEN WAVERLEY External site 18 Feb 2013

There was significant reputational damage inflicted on the nearby Melbourne offices in the network since the fraud came to light in mid-2016.

But LJ Hooker network chief Graeme Hyde has sought to profer the argument that business leadership plays a significant role in the ongoing success of the real estate network.

“We are fortunate to have long-term business owners who take great pride in the LJ Hooker offering, partnering with corporate to ensure our service to customers is the benchmark in real estate,” he said at a network awards night.

LJH's last formal response was when a spokesperson for LJ Hooker said in early 2017: "LJ Hooker is pleased that Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) have concluded their investigations and are now able to bring this matter to the courts, giving all those affected some closure. 

"These sorts of occurrences are a blight on the industry, and continued vigilance is of the utmost importance to LJ Hooker and our franchisees."

Judy Nguyen was the sole director of JNT Law Investments Pty Ltd (in Liq) ACN 161 495 905 and Joseph Ngo was an employee agent.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of our authors. Jonathan has been writing about property since the early 1980s and is editor-at-large of Property Observer.

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