JOONDALUP deputy mayor Russell Poliwka has hit out at the Department of Consumer Protection after being caught up in a scam involving the sale of a house, a fake death certificate and Middle Eastern terrorists.
Mr Poliwka is the principal of Joondalup-based real estate agency First Western Realty who, along with sales representative Ligaya Varela, were fined and reprimanded for selling a Balga house without the consent of one of its owners.
The fines were handed out by the State Administrative Tribunal.
The tawdry affair began back in November 2012, when a man contacted Ligaya Varela, a sales representative at First Western, keen to sell the Balga property he owned with his wife.
He signed the listing authority, saying that his family had moved back to Afghanistan and that they needed the home sold as soon as possible before he flew back himself.
A $350,000 offer on the home was accepted by the man – however it stalled when he requested an additional $10,000 and the settlement agent involved withdrew their services.
A statement from the Department of Consumer Protection said the wife’s identity, authority to sell and acceptance of the offer had not been verified at this stage.
At the end of January 2013, the man approached Ms Varela again, this time saying he had returned from Afghanistan to help finalise the sale of the property.
A friend of the husband also contacted Ms Varela at this time to inform her that the husband’s family had been killed by the Taliban.
A death certificate for the man’s wife was supplied to First Western in March 2013, and a translation of it stated that the wife and children of the husband had been kidnapped and killed by the Taliban on December 15, 2012.
Mr Poliwka said the certificate was passed on to the settlement agent, who then passed it on to Landgate – both of whom accepted it as legitimate.
The buyers agreed to extend the settlement date, and the sale of the property went through later that month.
First Western received $10,700 in commission while the husband received $34,271 profit from the sale of the house.
In June 2013, the wife – who was not dead – returned to Perth from Afghanistan and claimed the property had been sold without her knowledge.
First Western was fined $6000, reprimanded and forced to repay its commission on the house. Ms Varela was reprimanded, as well as being fined $2500 and forced to pay $1000 in costs.
Mr Poliwka said the prosecution of his agency and Ms Varela was “completely inappropriate”.
“The sales rep involved is the most loyal, honest person you could meet – there was no dishonesty on our part,” he said.
Mr Poliwka questioned whether the husband would face any justice for his part in the affair.
“In my opinion (the Department is) just outdated and trying to validate their role,” he said.
He questioned the amount of resources “wasted” on pursuing the prosecution.
Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard said there was “no excuse for this carelessness”.
“The lack of due diligence in this case is disappointing and has deprived a property owner of part proceeds of the sale, a totally unacceptable outcome,” he said.