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October 19, 2021

Unique Estates founder exploits customer contacts

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The former clients of luxury real estate agency Unique Estates would barely have noticed the emails from luxury boat and car hire companies dropping into their inboxes a few months ago.

It was only if they clicked on the ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom of the messages that they might have noticed that the words ‘Unique List – Nicky’ came up.

Even then, only a handful would have suspected that the Nicky in question was Nicolette Van Wijngaarden – Unique Estates’ former owner.

Despite pleading guilty to multiple counts of fraud over the company’s 2018 collapse, Nicolette Van Wijngaarden has been busy.

Under the name Nicky Crawley (Crawley is her husband’s surname, but not her legal name) the 44-year-old has been spruiking her skills to other businesses in the luxury sector.

In the case of two of these businesses, she used an extensive and valuable list of luxury client contacts that includes former customers from Unique Estates, some of whom may have lost tens of thousands as a result of her fraudulent activities.

‘Look, I have no issue with her trying to make a living, but I don’t think it’s right for her to use the contact details of people who were affected by the collapse,’ says former Unique Estates employee Simon Platt.

Valuable database 

‘That database of contacts is pretty valuable, and I just don’t think it’s right for her to make money from that after what happened.’

Ms Van Wijngaarden made contact with one of the businesses, luxury car experience company Prancing Horse, through the Luxury Network – a network of luxury businesses that holds regular industry networking events.

Prancing Horse declined to go on the record when contacted by The Echo, as did the Luxury Network’s director.

However, The Echo understands that Ms Van Wijngaarden – using the name Nicky Crawley – did not inform Prancing Horse about the fraud charges she was facing when spruiking her services, nor her connection to Unique Estates.

It is understood that her database of contacts was a key selling point for the company in bringing Ms Van Wijngaarden on board.

It is also understood that when the company was eventually made aware of Ms Van Wijngaarden’s chequered history – though not by the woman herself – they immediately stopped using her services. 

Another business, Luxury Boat Syndicates, also hired Ms Van Wijngaarden.

Former clients of Unique Estates have received at least one promotional email from this business.

Furthermore, until recently, the LinkedIn page for ‘Nicky Crawley’ listed her occupation as ‘Head of Sales and Client Relations’ at Luxury Boat Syndicates.

This LinkedIn page was taken down over the weekend after the company was contacted by The Echo. 

Neither the company nor Ms Van Wijngaarden returned The Echo’s phone calls.

Real estate trust fraud of $3.69m

Ms Van Wijngaarden’s is the largest case of real estate trust fraud in NSW history, with $3.69m taken.

Before its collapse, the company represented a raft of well-off clients, including actor Chris Hemsworth.

The Echo understands that those who lost money in the collapse have received around half of what they were owed via a public compensation fund.

Ms Van Wijngaarden is due to be sentenced in the NSW District Court on September 20.

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