A former Melbourne real estate agent has been jailed for misusing more than $6 million of client money, blowing $300,000 on the drug ice alone.
Tri Duc Ngo, also known as Joseph Ngo, 37, pleaded guilty to misappropriating the funds from accounts linked to six LJ Hooker branches.
The father-of-four was jailed on Thursday for five years, with a minimum of three years, for offending between January 2015 and March 2016.
“Your offending was dishonest, harmful and prolonged,” County Court judge Michael Bourke said.
“You were in a licensed, really, a privileged position – the advantage was very much in your favour.”
The judge likened the offending to a Ponzi scheme, saying it was sophisticated and Ngo had badly breached the trust of a lot of people.
The actual loss to victims was about $2.3 million.
Ngo used the cash to support his heavy drug habit, estimating he spent $300,000 on ice alone. He also splurged on clothes and jewellery.
The court heard Ngo had a schizoaffective disorder and his psychosis was significantly influenced by his ice use. The drug also affected his reasoning, the judge said.
Ngo, who came to Australia as a refugee from Vietnam at age two, left home at 14 due to strict parents and lived an unstable and itinerant life until his mid 20s.
The court heard he was introduced to drugs and alcohol after suffering a serious motor vehicle accident at 19 and then began using heroin and ice.
He had reformed from drug use but returned to using ice two years ago.
Ngo’s offending came undone after Victoria’s consumer watchdog was told of his company’s significantly overdrawn trust account and an examination of his business records showed breaches of the law.
His victims have been fully compensated by the Victorian Property Fund and although the judge ordered Ngo also pay compensation to that fund, he noted there were “remote prospects” of him doing so.
Ngo operated six LJ Hooker branches at Glen Waverley, Box Hill, Burwood, Doncaster, Keysborough and Mount Waverley.