Real estate scam leaves pregnant woman in debt

By Edward Gay

File photo / NZPA
File photo / NZPA

A pregnant woman has broken down in court as she described how a real estate scam left her $17,000 in debt.

Father-and-son former Re/Max agents Sant and Rajneel Raj were due to appear before the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal yesterday for a sentence hearing, but both failed to show.

In their absence Marevil Porlares told the hearing at the Auckland District Court that she bought a commercial investment property in Mt Wellington through Rajneel Raj for $310,000 in June 2010.

She didn't know the property was in Rajneel's mother's name and had been bought earlier the same day for only $275,000.

The tribunal earlier found that Rajneel used his mother's name on deals where he stood to gain financially and committed forgery.

Ms Porlares told the tribunal that the tenants didn't pay rent regularly and she had to sell the property the following year for $270,000.

The deal left her $17,000 in debt.

She wept as she described how the bank phoned her asking for the outstanding mortgage money while she was breastfeeding her first baby.

Ms Porlares had to get a loan from her parents in the Philippines to make mortgage payments and was threatened with court action by the bank.

She is paying $200 a fortnight to the bank and owes another $10,000.

"The situation is too much ... I had too much stress," she said.

Rajneel and Sant Raj were both found to have committed misconduct offences alleged by the Real Estate Agents Authority.

Rajneel falsely inflated the values of houses in Mangere, Mt Wellington and Henderson to deceive the BNZ into lending more than they were worth.

The authority says Rajneel and his associates made at least $189,000 from the deals.

The tribunal found his offending was wilful, reckless and extremely serious.

Earlier, the chairman of the three-member tribunal panel, Judge Paul Barber, said Rajneel had been in contact to say he was not well but wished to take part in the proceedings.

Judge Barber gave him three more weeks to respond. A date for the sentencing has not yet been set.

A separate sentence hearing for father Sant Raj was heard in the afternoon. Sant Raj has been found guilty of giving false or misleading information to investigators during the official inquiry into his son's price ramping.

Real Estate Agents Authority lawyer Luke Clancy told the tribunal he wanted a fine of between $7500 and $15,000 for Sant and a ban on him being employed by real estate companies.

Sant's lawyer Kahungunu Barron-Afeaki said his client was not the main player in the offending and had already left the industry of his own accord.

"There is a long-term devastating punishment because he is no longer practising in this lucrative industry."

The tribunal reserved its decision.

- APNZ

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