Investigators are searching for millions of dollars missing from the trust fund of six Melbourne real estate offices.
Money totalling in the millions for house deposits and rent has gone missing from LJ Hooker Glen Waverley, Keysborough, Mount Waverley, Burwood, Doncaster and Box Hill, which have all been closed since April 21.
Consumer Affairs Victoria says more than 100 customers have been affected by the closure of the franchise run by Judy Nguyen, also known as Judy Thanh Truc, and husband Joseph Ngo.
Ms Nguyen told media outlets she had been set up, and also said the account had been “hacked”.
But LJ Hooker rejected her explanation.
“The day prior to termination of the franchise agreement, Ms Judy Nguyen informed LJ Hooker for the first time that her partner, Joseph Ngo, had misused trust funds,” the company said in a statement.
“At no time did Ms Nguyen say that her trust account had been hacked.”
Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett said those responsible would feel the full force of the law.
“This is horrendous behaviour,” Ms Garrett told reporters on Saturday.
“We changed the locks on these offices as soon as we found out irregularities had occurred.”
Ms Garrett said the Victorian Property Fund would reimburse house deposits and rent while the search for the missing money continued.
“The property fund will work through that, it is precisely there for these situations,” she said.
A statutory manager has been appointed to deal with outstanding consumer, landlord or tenant transactions, and wind the business down.