Strata manager jailed after lights go out

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A corrupt strata manager’s dodgy dealings, salting away tens of thousands of dollars of his clients’ cash, were discovered when the lights went out on one of the unit blocks he looked after.

The power company had cut off the electricity after Jason Christopher Hext, of Strataco Strata Pty Ltd, had transferred the owners corporation funds into his personal accounts rather than paying their utility bills.

Hext defrauded his clients of more than $67,000 over a six-month period. On Wednesday he was sentenced at the Parramatta Local Court  to 12 months in jail.

Hext is the second strata manager to be jailed in NSW in the past eight months. In September last year Rachael Kwawegen, 39, the co-founder of boutique strata company The Strata Agency, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for stealing more than $1 million from the apartment and business owners whose buildings she looked after.

NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe welcomed the Hext verdict: “This prosecution sends a stark warning to traders who think they can flout the rules and take advantage of consumers – the law will catch up with you,” Mr Stowe said.

“This case involved the blatant misappropriation of funds by an individual which ended up in a building being without power, rubbish collection, cleaning services or fire services, putting all of the tenants, some of whom were elderly, at real and significant risk.

“Mr Hext paid himself monthly management fees well in excess of what was agreed and for a number of months paid himself a monthly fee three times over the course of the month. He also paid his wife fees for purported business activity statements preparation and auditing, none of which took place.”

Hext was sentenced to 12 months in jail, with a non-parole period of seven months. He has also been banned from operating as a real estate agent until 2022. He has appealed the severity of the sentence which is set down for hearing on April 29 in the  Parramatta District Court.

The Sydney firm StrataCo Strata is no longer trading and has no relation with other companies called StrataCo elsewhere in Australia or the rest of the world.  This story first appear in Fairfax Media’s online version of Domain, where you can read other articles by Jimmy Thomson.

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