An Auckland real estate agent has been censured for disgraceful conduct after engaging a "front" to hide her buying her own family home at a mortgagee sale and forging documents.
Bernadette Makuini Marr owned the 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 2012, her payments fell behind, so financier Linkloan Trustees began the mortgagee sale process. She did all she could to prevent that and it was those actions which resulted in the disgraceful conduct finding.
Lawyer Simon Waalkens was successful before the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal, prosecuting for a Real Estate Authority complaints assessment committee.
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.
Marr, listed this morning as working at Sotheby's International Realty, said today 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."
Her lawyer, Jon Wain, said today: "There is an appeal planned. At this point, I can't say much more, other than that I am instructed that an appeal is to be lodged."
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 and Bayleys had cooperated fully with the Real Estate Authority investigation.
Mark Harris, Sotheby's managing director, said today: "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.
Marr also said a written statement would be issued on her behalf.
Her profile on Sotheby's says: "Having had 24 amazing years selling real estate, Makuini provides a wealth of experience to you when you are making one of your most important decisions - buying or selling property."
Harris said after he received the tribunal decision: "Her contract was terminated upon discovery of this information today."