Realtor accused of misusing client’s cash

| 13/02/2018 | 0 Comments
Cayman real estate

Law Courts Building, Grand Cayman

(CNS): Antonio “Toni” Paolini (77), the one-time owner of Cayman Real Estate, appeared in Grand Court Tuesday on trial for theft. The real estate agent is accused of stealing $43,000 from Dr Dirk Belfonte, who gave the cash to Paolini as a deposit for a piece of land he wanted to buy. But according to prosecutors, the septuagenarian did not hold the money in a trust account as he should have, but began spending it. When the deal failed to complete and the doctor came to get his deposit back, Paolini was unable to pay him.

Crown counsel Toyin Salako told a jury that Paolini had only $10.53 in his collection of bank accounts in August 2014, when he took the more than $40,000 deposit from Belfonte. But within days he began using the money to pay utility bills, shopping and also transferred cash to Florida. Instead of retaining the deposit in an escrow or trust account until the deal was finalised, he used the money “as he saw fit”, the lawyer said.

Outlining the  prosecution’s case for the jury, Salako said Paolini was well aware that what he was doing was dishonest and something the police took seriously because only weeks before he had been arrested, interviewed and charged with a very similar offence.

But 22 days later, he started doing exactly the same thing again, the lawyer added. “There could have been no doubt in his mind by then the seriousness of using a client’s money the way he did as he was already going through the criminal courts,” she told the men and women who will decide the case.

Salako said that the land sale was contingent on financing for the more than $300,000 remaining on the property, and when Belfonte was not able to get the necessary financing, the deal fell through and Dr Belfonte went back to Cayman Real Estate Agents for his refund. But when he spoke with Paolini, he was told he would have the money in two days. However, the prosecutor said, Paolini knew he could not pay back all of the cash as he already spent around $15,000.

When the Doctor pressed for his money a few days later, the real estate agent admitted he was not able to repay the full amount and gave the doctor just CI$28,500, Salako explained to the jury. He then said he would pay back the balance over a period of time. Apologising for what he had done, he told the doctor he was prepared to enter into a deal to repay the sum and even offered Belfonte his car as part payment for the remaining outstanding cash.

However, having realised that the real estate agent had not kept his deposit in trust as had been expected but had instead spent it, Belfonte went to the police and Paulini was arrested and later charged with theft.

Paolini claims he never acted dishonestly when he used the cash and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The case continues.

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Category: Courts, Crime, Real Estate

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