Real estate agent gets jail
AN obsession with race horses led former Toowoomba real estate agent Ian Cumming to misappropriate almost $600,000 which ultimately has left him behind bars for at least two years.
After bidding farewell to family and friends yesterday, the 58-year-old was led handcuffed from the Toowoomba District Court dock to start a six-and-a-half year jail term.
Judge Katherine McGinness recommended Cumming be eligible to apply for release on parole from November 4, 2011, after he has served two years of the sentence.
Acceding to a request from Cumming’s barrister Robbie Davies, Judge McGinness also asked that the Community Corrections authorities give consideration to allowing Cumming to serve the term at the Darling Downs Correctional Centre at Westbrook so he can be nearer his family.
Cumming pleaded guilty to fraud arising from his unlawfully using $582,000 held in his then real estate company’s trust account, some of which was used to cover costs associated with a stable of race horses he had in 2006.
Crown prosecutor Sarah Farnden said the fraud related to two deposits of $82,000 and $500,000 respectively placed in the trust account of Cumming’s Ray White Rural Toowoomba for the purchase of properties.
The monies, the first deposited in March 2006 and the second in September the same year, had later been transferred into Cumming’s business account.
However, when the respective sales fell through and the purchasers asked for their deposits back, Cumming was unable to return any of the money.
Ms Farnden had submitted a head sentence of seven to eight years jail with parole eligibility after Cumming had served one-third of the sentence.
“This is a significant breach of trust by a director of a real estate company,” she said.
His staff had been left out of work when the company went into liquidation soon after the fraud became known and one employee had missed out on a half-share of the $500,000 commission.
Cumming had made no attempt to repay the money and he had a similar fraud conviction in 2001 relating to $1500 of which his then business partner had been deprived, Ms Farnden said.
Mr Davies said his client had built up the Ray White franchise from scratch but had developed a passion for race horses in 2003 and ran a stable of 22 horses at its peak.
His client and family had already suffered punishment by public humiliation since the offence was made known through the media and Cumming had been declared bankrupt and had to sell his home, Mr Davies said.
The offending, which was always going to come to light, had had devastating consequences for Cumming and his family and any term of imprisonment at his age and with his health problems would be difficult, Mr Davies submitted.