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Luxury real estate in Sydney: brokers tell about run-ins with fake and fraud buyers

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High-end brokers are plagued by fake buyers, who even let them taste the water of the test pool or fraudulently occupy private islands for use as sex traps.

The proliferation of fake buyers has led the agent handling the sale of the dead conwoman’s Melissa Caddick’s Sydney mansion to demand a $10,000 deposit from those willing to inspect it.

Sydney’s buyer Simon Cohen, who sells prime real estate to an elite and mostly discreet clientele, said a fake buyer once got far enough to get him to tell a poor employee to taste a pool water to see whether it came from the sea.

Those who want to inspect the $10 million property in Sydney of runaway conwoman Melissa Caddick will have to pay $10,000 to do so

Those who want to inspect the $10 million property in Sydney of runaway conwoman Melissa Caddick will have to pay $10,000 to do so

The woman, whom Cohen described as an Audi driver with mushy blond hair and in her forties, had come to him on the recommendation of a banker, who said she was looking for a home in the $30 million price range.

It was later revealed that she had defrauded the banker, perhaps as she initially did Mr. Cohen with made-up stories that she had just picked up matching black and white Porsches from a well-known dealer.

High-end real estate agent Simon Cohen was once so captivated by a fake buyer that he let a staff member taste the pool water of a luxury home to keep the fraudster happy

High-end real estate agent Simon Cohen was once so captivated by a fake buyer that he let a staff member taste the pool water of a luxury home to keep the fraudster happy

High-end real estate agent Simon Cohen was once so captivated by a fake buyer that he let a staff member taste the pool water of a luxury home to keep the fraudster happy

Mr. Cohen showed the woman five properties, and the one she chose was a waterfront home in the exclusive northern Sydney suburb of Mosman.

Contracts were drawn up as the woman went into every detail of the house, including the pool taste test.

The scam only came to light when the $3 million deposit never showed up in the agent’s account, despite the woman forging a Macquarie Bank wire transfer receipt for that amount.

“I don’t know if it was a scam or a mental illness,” Mr Cohen told the… Sydney Morning Herald.

“She wanted to think she was a $30 million buyer. If it was a scammer, I’m not sure what the scam was.”

Notorious con man David Ashworth, often known as David Otto, fraudulently took possession of a private island where he tried to lure women into group sex

Notorious con man David Ashworth, often known as David Otto, fraudulently took possession of a private island where he tried to lure women into group sex

Notorious con man David Ashworth, often known as David Otto, fraudulently took possession of a private island where he tried to lure women into group sex

Sometimes scams have a very clear and obscure purpose.

Richard Vanhoff, who specializes in private island sales, was the victim of serial scammer David Ashworth, known as David Otto.

Despite never paying the $5,000 deposit, Ashworth temporarily took possession of Temple Island and used the pretense of being a heavyweight in the music industry to lure young women to the island for group sex.

The property that Caddick disappeared from during the financial fraud investigation in 2020 is being sold

The property that Caddick disappeared from during the financial fraud investigation in 2020 is being sold

The property that Caddick disappeared from during the financial fraud investigation in 2020 is being sold

Prestige brokers say there appears to be a commensurate increase in the number of fake buyers of luxury properties.

The Agency’s Ben Collier told the Sydney Morning Herald that he’d dealt with about six this year.

“I’ve just never seen so many predators,” Collier said.

“They even go one step further and in some cases buy a pest and building inspection report, or book attorneys’ fees on the contracts and use real estate agents.”

Other agents think the total number has not risen, but because there are fewer real buyers, the fraudsters have become a scourge.

Cassandra Cross, an associate professor of justice at the Queensland University of Technology, said fake buyers wanted to portray status and wealth.

Sometimes this was for personal needs, but it could also be used as part of a sting to trick a victim into giving the fake persona money.

She said the forgeries committed, whether they did it for personal gain or to fulfill psychological urges, were the ones who spent money on the process, not just the nosy neighbors or gooey beaks who like to go to property inspections.

Veteran luxury real estate agent Bill Malouf says real buyers don't have to try to impress with ostentatious shows of wealth

Veteran luxury real estate agent Bill Malouf says real buyers don't have to try to impress with ostentatious shows of wealth

Veteran luxury real estate agent Bill Malouf says real buyers don’t have to try to impress with ostentatious shows of wealth

It may be in an effort to deter these types that a $10,000 refundable deposit is being demanded from those wishing to inspect Caddick’s lavish $10 million property in Dover Heights, Sydney’s exclusive coastal eastern suburb.

Caddick disappeared from the property on November 12, 2020 while under investigation for financial fraud.

Human remains washed up on a beach on the south coast of NSW in February 2021 were identified as hers.

An experienced agent of the Sydney luxury market, Bill Malouf, has come across many counterfeits and fraudsters, but he has a tip that may help the less experienced.

“They may look poorly dressed and barefoot, but what legitimate buyers won’t do is value their wealth and the kind of car they call driving,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.