Oz Capital managing director Cathy Fu and her team. Photo: SuppliedAgent charged over theft of client funds joins new firmFormer real estate agent to admit ‘missing’ trust account money
The woman who hired a real estate agent facing allegations of a multimillion-dollar fraud to work in her new business has defended her new employee as “very successful” and “hard working”.
Cathy Fu hired former LJ Hooker agent Judy Nguyen to work in her newly-created Springvale OZ Capital Real Estate, despite Ms Nguyen facing charges that she misappropriated more than $2 million of clients’ money.
Ms Fu said she met Ms Nguyen about five years ago through a friend, and hiring Ms Nguyen as business development manager was mutually beneficial: she wanted advice from an experienced agent in the local market and Ms Nguyen ??? also known as Judy Thanh Truc ???needed a job to support her family and four children.
Ms Fu told Domain, in an interview in English and Mandarin at her Springvale office, she had a good first impression of Ms Nguyen as a woman who was “very successful” and “hard working”.
Ms Fu said she was “shocked” and thought it was “a pity” when news of the collapse of the six LJ Hooker offices emerged last year.
“I sent a message to comfort her, tell her to face the truth and to be brave,” Ms Fu said. “As a friend, when she was in difficulties, I sent the word to her.”
Last month, Ms Nguyen and her husband Tri Duc (Joseph) Ngo appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court for a committal mention following the collapse of six Melbourne LJ Hooker offices last April. Mr Ngo’s lawyer, Erol Cinar, told the court that Mr Ngo was the only one with access to the trust accounts and he was the one who committed the offending. Ms Nguyen would plead not guilty to all charges, he said.
Ms Fu believed the legal system would reach a fair verdict, but said it would not change their relationship whether she was guilty or not.
Amid tears, the mother-of-two said that she had known Ms Nguyen for a long time, and anyone who did not know her might only see one side to her.
Ms Fu said Ms Nguyen was still the same person who she knew in the past, regardless of what she may have done ??? it had not changed anything to her.
When they started discussing the employment earlier this year, Ms Fu said she had almost forgotten Ms Nguyen’s alleged offending because it happened a while ago.
Ms Fu admitted she did have some concerns, so made an agreement with Ms Nguyen to ensure she would not touch the trust accounts while working for the company.
Ms Fu said she “very much appreciated” Ms Nguyen because she had a lot of experience and was generous in sharing advice about how to run the business.
Asked whether people would have confidence in her business despite the incident, Ms Fu said her clients believed in her and Ms Nguyen was adamant she was not guilty.
She described the employment was “mutually beneficial”: Ms Nguyen needed a job and she wanted someone to help her with her new business, adding that she had been referring Chinese investors to opportunities in Melbourne.
“I wanted to change [my focus] to the local market, I wanted to find someone very experienced to ask about how to set up a business, how to organise the business,” Ms Fu said.
Ms Fu said Ms Nguyen very much wanted to return to the real estate industry, and believed she would do her best to “prove herself” and do even better.
Whether a company was successful or not depended on the results they achieved and how they treated customers, she said. If we performed well over a period of time, everyone would change their opinion of her.
“I wanted to give her a chance ??? if I didn’t give her an opportunity, no one else will,” Ms Fu said, adding that Consumer Affairs Victoria had confirmed Ms Nguyen was allowed to sell properties in the meantime. But among the conditions of Oz Capital’s licence: Ms Nguyen must not deal with trust accounts.