A former real estate agent will likely be jailed after misappropriating more than $6 million from 46 of his clients in Melbourne, partly to buy drugs and jewellery.
Tri Duc Ngo, also known as Joseph Ngo, has pleaded guilty to misusing $6.49 million from trust accounts linked to six LJ Hooker branches.
Ngo is reported to suffer psychosis, a schizoaffective disorder, and a substance addiction.
Some of the money he transferred was used at Swarovski and Tiffany and Co stores, or withdrawn as cash.
Ngo told his psychiatrist Mat Gelman some of the money was also used to buy methamphetamine, ice, heroin, and marijuana.
Defence lawyer Erol Cinar argued in the County Court of Victoria on Monday that the father-of-four should be spared jail because his four-year-old had not yet made lasting memories of his father.
He also argued Ngo was active in his church community, had no intention to return to real estate, was remorseful and was of otherwise good character.
Mr Cinar added Ngo’s mental condition, exacerbated by drug use, caused him to suffer with strong auditory and visual hallucinations.
“Mr Ngo suffers extreme and recurrent mood swings. He has attempted suicide … fuelled by his desire to escape the hallucinations,” he said.
But crown prosecutor Robyn Harper said only an immediate term of imprisonment was appropriate considering he had misappropriated more than $6 million.
“The offending occurred over a protracted period between January 2015 and March 2016,” she said.
“The scale is massive … (and) there’s been no evidence he’s repaid the money.
“I can only imagine the distress it’s caused with people paying money in good faith to a real estate agent.”
Judge Michael Bourke agreed Ngo should serve some time in jail for his crime.
He released Ngo on bail for one day to collect his medications, with plans to remand him in custody on Tuesday before sentencing at a later date.
Ngo operated six LJ Hooke branches at Glen Waverley, Box Hill, Burwood, Doncaster, Keysborough and Mount Waverley with his wife and co-accused Judy Nguyen, also known as Truc Thanh Le Nguyen.
It is understood she has pleaded not guilty to similar offences and is due to stand trial in 2019.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.