An Auckland real estate agent has been struck off for misconduct after using forged documents and creating a "front" to hide the purchase of her own family home at a mortgagee sale.
Bernadette Makuini Marr owned a residence in Parnell but in 2007 she sold it to her son Damian Marr and another man, David Askew, yet she remained responsible for making mortgage payments.
In February, the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal found a charge of misconduct proved against her and after a hearing last month, has now delivered its penalty.
It decided to revoke her ticket to practice as an agent, meaning she can no longer sell property: "We order that Ms Marr's salesperson's licence is cancelled," the tribunal said.
In 2012, her mortgage payments fell behind, so financier Linkloan Trustees began the mortgagee sale process. She did all she could to prevent that.
The tribunal said that in 2013 when Marr had worked at Bayleys, she had:
• Hired a colleague "as a front to hide the fact that she was purchasing her own family home at a mortgagee sale by auction";
• "Inserted words into a contract of sale by auction of the property without advising the mortgagee";
• Used a sale and purchase form to create an agreement on the property in breach of Bayley's internal protocol;
• "Forged the signature of the vendor...on that agreement for sale and purchase";
• Created a further agreement which specified a purchase price and deposit greater than the actual amounts.
When the property went up for mortgagee sale, Marr asked a colleague, identified only as Ms Guttenbeil, to bid for it on her behalf, the decision said. Marr's evidence was that she openly disclosed this fact but the tribunal said she did not tell the mortgagee, Linkloan, and the auctioneer did not say before bidding began that Ms Guttenbeil was bidding on behalf of the mortgagee.
Also involved at the auction was David Barton, introduced to Marr by a second-tier lender but she was unaware that Barton had been convicted of offences of dishonesty. He had served three years in prison after pleading guilty to 81 charges involving commercial fraud, the tribunal's decision said.
The property was passed in at auction but Guttenbeil signed a subsequent offer to buy it for $435,000. A contract was then drawn up for Guttenbeil as vendor and buyers Keith and Charlotte Marr - Bernadette Marr's children.
Then, a series of events took place involving Barton and a funder he introduced, Barry Ian Parkin.
The tribunal heard submissions that the findings against Marr had been serious with a high degree of dishonesty. Yet "Ms Marr shows no insight into her offending", saying it was "not as bad as it looks".
In the tribunal decision penalty hearing, Marr's lawyer Jon Wain submitted that any poor decisions by her ought to be considered in the light of the great commercial and personal pressure she was under at the time.
Her conduct had not been in the performance of real estate agency work, he claimed. She was not involved with any members of the public and not acting in the capacity of a real estate agent, Wain told the tribunal.
Also, she was not dealing with property owned by anyone other than a family member. She had been licensed for 25 years without any disciplinary findings against her.
But the tribunal said it didn't accept his submission that she was not performing real estate agency work: "Her conduct involved the creation and use of agreements for sale and purchase. This is fundamental to real estate agency work," the tribunal decided.
Marr, most recently listed as working at Sotheby's International Realty, said in May that she planned to appeal the tribunal's decision. She no longer owned the property, she said.
"I have never committed or been guilty of the charge against me. Through a scam operated by fraudsters, one of whom is currently in jail, I was wrongly charged and my case is being appealed," Marr told the Herald in May.
At that same time in May, Tony Bayley, compliance manager at Bayleys where Marr had worked, said she was dismissed following breaches of the company's code of practice.
"The actions she took were without the knowledge or the authorisation of this agency or its management," Bayley said. The business, Bayleys, had cooperated fully with the Real Estate Authority investigation, Tony Bayley said in May.
In May, Mark Harris, Sotheby's managing director, also said: "We were completely unaware of any disciplinary matters until today. We take them extremely seriously and will be doing a full investigation. When she joined us there was no record of any disciplinary history and nothing disclosed to us since.
Harris said after he received the tribunal decision: "Her contract was terminated upon discovery of this information."
Comment on the latest penalty decision has been sought from Bayleys.