REIV issues misleading press release.
Article originally published JANUARY 5, 2004 –Reviewed and approved.
By Neil Jenman
In the week before Christmas, the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) issued a press release about a Melbourne agent, James Tostevin.
Headed, TOSTEVIN NOT GUILTY, the REIV claimed that Mr Tostevin had been “found not guilty” of false representations under the Fair-Trading Act. But the REIV’s press release was as misleading as Mr Tostevin’s behaviour. Tostevin had not been found not guilty.
Back in May 2003, the REIV suspended Tostevin’s membership after Consumer Affairs brought charges against him alleging that he had used his father as a dummy bidder at an auction of a home in the suburb of Kew. By suspending Tostevin, the REIV could create the public impression that it did not approve of dummy bidding.
But as Tostevin’s boss, Bruce Bell, pointed out, Tostevin had been “singled out”. And that was true. Had the REIV suspended every agent involved in dummy bidding it would have lost most of its member auction agents.
During the case, the court heard that Tostevin held weekly meetings with his father to plan their combined dummy bidding scheme at each week’s auctions. Through a series of pre-planned secret signals, Tostevin, in his role as auctioneer, would indicate when and by how much his father – standing in the crowd pretending to be a bidder – was to bid. Tostevin was the conductor in an orchestra of deceit.
The case against Tostevin collapsed because the events at Kew auction – which was the subject of the charges – contained “inconsistencies”. The Magistrate felt that the high standard of proof required would have prevented a guilty finding.
Legal complexities, technicalities, call it what you like, but one thing was clear. Tostevin was shown to be guilty throughout his career of being involved in serial dummy bidding. He admitted it.
The REIV’s press release is as misleading as Tostevin’s dummy bidding.
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