The founder of defunct Byron-based luxury real estate agency Unique Estates has been sentenced to at least one year and nine months jail for fraud.
Nicolette Van Wijngaarden received the sentence from Judge John Pickering in the NSW District Court on Thursday, nearly a year after pleading guilty to the largest case of real estate trust fraud in NSW history, with $3.69m taken.
According to the Financial Review, Judge Pickering described Ms Van Wijngaarden as ‘a bright woman who led a life many people envied’.
His honour also reportedly said the 45-year-old had been given a discount on her sentence because she had turned herself in, which indicated that she had ‘excellent prospects of being rehabilitated’.
He gave Ms Wingaarden a maximum sentence of three years and six months jail, with a minimum non-parole period of one year and nine months.
‘There has to be conformity before the law and there has to be general deterrence,’ the judge reportedly said in handing down the sentence.
‘I don’t think a real estate agent who sees a judgment like this should think that in future there is authority to steal and take from a trust account, misappropriate $3 million to keep your business alive, that the courts won’t take the event seriously.’
‘I don’t think we can send that message.’
Before Unique Estates collapsed in 2018 the company represented a raft of well-off clients, including celebrities Chris Hemsworth and Colette Dinnigan.
The Echo understands that those who lost money in the collapse have received around half of what they were owed via the NSW department of fair trading’s compensation fund.