Property broker duped client out of $51K

| 08/08/2017 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A local real estate broker who took CI$51,600 from a woman who wanted to buy a piece of land on Grand Cayman used the cash to try to prop up his own business and duped the woman into converting the payment into a loan which was never paid back. Prosecutor Toyin Salako told a jury, Tuesday, that Joana Triana was left out-of-pocket and lost out on the land she wanted to buy but Antonio Paolini (77) has denied stealing the cash and claims he had intended to pay his client back.

As Salako presented the crown’s case charging Paolini with one count of theft in Grand Court, she said that in February 2013 Triana withdrew the cash from her account and handed it to agent Michael Mighty, who worked for Paolini at the Cayman Real Estate Company, to buy a small parcel of land. The money was the full payment and not a deposit. Triana was under the impression that once any restrictions were lifted the sale would be completed and the land transferred to her.

But when she discovered that the sale was still not complete in July, more than four months later, she contacted Mighty. He told her there was a problem and arranged a meeting. Triana then met with Paolini, the owner of the firm, who told her that he had not bought the land on her behalf and that he no longer had her money.

The jury heard that despite a requirement for real estate agents and brokers in Cayman who are members of CIREBA to keep their client cash for deposits and purchases separate from business operating accounts, Paolini had mixed the money and was not maintaining a trust chequing account.

Claiming that he was expecting a major land sale to go through in short order, he persuaded Triana to convert the money she gave him to buy land into a loan at 5% interest which he said he would pay back before the year-end. The prosecutor said Paolini presented Triana with the loan deal and, not knowing what else to do, she agreed.

However, by the end of December, Paolini had made a couple of very small payments but the bulk of the money remained outstanding. At another meeting, Paolini told Triana that he had not managed to make the promised deal and needed another year and a new loan deal but this time Triana refused and took the case to the police.

When she gave evidence, Triana confirmed that she had never wanted to loan the money to Paolini and he had not asked her about a loan until the first time she met the real-estate company owner. She explained that she was buying the land through Mighty who she knew from church. She told the jury that she should never have signed the loan agreement and that it was a mistake.

Paolini has admitted that his accounts were “in a mess” and had pleaded with CIREBA not to throw him out of the association. But he has denied stealing the cash from Triana as he claimed he had always intended to pay back what he considered a loan after the money was mishandled and, according to evidence presented by the crown, had been used to “keep the doors of the business open”.

The case continues with visiting judge, Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop, presiding.

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