Agent gets home detention for $150,000 fraud

Home detention has been granted to a real estate agent who admitted a $149,094 fraud charge related to the Izone development in Rolleston.

Shirley Anne Johnston, 66, admitted one representative charge of obtaining money by deception over the commission on the property transations.

Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders said he was not making an order for Johnston to pay reparation but that did not rule out the property firm pursuing her with a civil claim.

Defence counsel Joshua Shaw said Johnston was now in a difficult financial situation and was living in a small flat in Wanaka where she would serve the home detention sentence.

She was working as a cleaner and doing gardening for nine clients around the area.

Probation said that was the limit of the places she could work while serving home detention, which was closely monitored.

Johnston’s partner, Steven Rolf Gubb, 62, who was a property consultant on the Izone project, has already been jailed for two years nine months for his role in the fraud. He had a previous similar conviction.

Gubb was employed by Hughes Developments Ltd which was managing the industrial park development in Rolleston, for the Selwyn District Council.

The Serious Fraud Office said Gubb was employed to sell Izone land, leases, and design and build packages, but if a real estate agent introduced a purchaser to the property they would receive the commission.

Between March 2007 and July 2015 Gubb arranged for Johnston’s real estate office to receive 13 commission payments worth $300,828, and then she was paid a share of the commission through them, which totalled $149,094.

However the Serious Fraud Office found that 10 of the sale and purchase agreements for the 13 sales in question were shown as “Sale by Private Treaty”, but a commission invoice was generated and submitted for payment by Gubb. In 13 cases the purchasers did not know the real estate agent in any capacity.

Judge Saunders imposed a term of 200 hours of community work on Johnston, which he hoped could be served on an agency placement in Wanaka, and seven months of home detention.

He said he had refused media permission to photograph Johnston in court, and he expected media not to approach or photograph people outside the court house in cases where in-court photography was not granted. It was demeaning for the media to be pursuing people in the street in paparazzi fashion, he said.

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