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Little hope of catching shady property scammers

Aja Styles
September 13, 2010
Roger Mildenhall is calling on all state government agencies to close a loophole that allowed one of his West Australian properties to be sold and a second one to go to settlement, both without his knowledge.

Mr Mildenhall was living in Cape Town when his Deanmore Road duplex in Karrinyup, that he owned outright since buying it for his now-deceased parents in 1989, was sold without his knowledge for $485,000 in June.

The property was bought by Mr Mildenhall’s next-door neighbours, but they are yet to move into the property and have remained in their old house while the mess is sorted out.
After completing one sale, the Nigerian-based scammers then targeted his Hale Road home in Wembley Downs, which was full of his furniture and two cars.

“The first scam had gone off so well they thought they may as well do a second one,” he told 6PR Radio.

Mr Mildenhall raced home when he found out from a neighbour on September 3 that his Perth home was being targeted.

“I didn’t come back until I found out about it because I was asking the next-door neighbour, who we correspond with quite a lot and talk to on the phone, … and he said that they are putting your place up for sale,” Mr Mildenhall said.

He had to go to the real estate agent to ask for the keys to his house after the scammers asked for the locks to be changed and a cleaner and gardener be hired to prepare the property for sale.

“The real estate agent tells me that the person purporting to be me said that they had a real estate deal that was too good to be true, they needed money immediately and don’t call my home in Cape Town or send anything there because I wasn’t there. (They said) just go through the deal that they told them on the phone, and they believed it,” he said.

“I am in touch with real estate boards, settlement agencies, Landgate who hold the title deeds and the fraud squad of course … so we can close the loophole so it won’t happen to anybody else.”

It was suggested to him by police that he was the first to be targeted in Australia by this type of scam, even though absentee landlords are quite common nationally.

He told that police fraud squad officers, tasked with investigating the matter, held little hope of tracing the scammers since they used mobile phones that they threw away and internet cafes.

He said not enough due diligence was carried out on the authorisation of the sale, since his alleged signature was “like that of a five-year-old”, written out in un-joined lower-case letters. It also had a witness signature, with a stamp purporting to be from the High Commissioner of Lagos, Nigerian justice system.

He said it was just too simple to get all his records, with details of his mortgage obtained for $35 from the Real Estate Institute of Australia. They also accessed his first wife’s death certificate to help authorise the sale and were able to source a copy of the title deed from Landgate.

“I just need all the government departments to come on board to say we were lax here or this shouldn’t ever happen again and change their rules,” Mr Mildenhall said on 6PR.

He is seeking legal advice on how to get criminal compensation for the money owed on the sale of the house, plus his expenses for returning to Australia to “disentangle all the tentacles” of the scam.

He was also concerned that he would be landed with a whopping capital gains tax bill for the sale of the Karrinyup duplex home, despite not receiving any of the sale proceeds.

“I hope that the tax department is aware of a way to absolve me of that debt,” he said.

September 14, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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