A high-profile Darwin real estate agent accused of diverting funds meant for his employer to himself was in “serious financial trouble”, the Northern Territory Supreme Court has been told.
- Chris Deutrom pleads not guilty to defrauding Elders of about $234,000
- Deutrom accused of instructing advertisers to transfer rebate money into his personal accounts
- Email from Deutrom claims he redirected money to fund team-building trip
Chris Deutrom has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of obtaining a benefit by deception for allegedly defrauding Elders of about $234,000 in 2015 and 2016, when he was the company’s Darwin real estate manager.
The trial, which continues today, was told on Monday Mr Deutrom negotiated a deal with the NT News and realestate.com.au to receive rebates for Elders in exchange for a certain advertising spend.
According to prosecutor David Morters SC, Mr Deutrom then instructed the advertisers to transfer rebate money into two personal bank accounts — one in the name of his company Deutrom Pty Ltd, and a joint account with his wife Helen.
“He did so because he was in serious financial trouble,” Mr Morters told the jury.
“He diverted the money, because he needed the money.”
Mr Morters read aloud an email Mr Deutrom sent to his boss, then-Elders northern zone general manager Greg Dunne, after an initial $14,000 discrepancy was found in October 2016.
In the email, Mr Deutrom said he had helped pay for previous team-building trips to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur “out of my own pocket” and that he had redirected rebate money to take the team overseas again.
“I remember the day we met at the hotel for my interview and you said to me that we will get on fine as long as I don’t lie to you or steal from you!,” he wrote in the email.
“I have betrayed this trust and feel like an absolute ‘f*** wit’ and am prepared to suffer the full consequences.”
Mr Deutrom wrote that staff had been disappointed an annual “Reward for Excellence” trip had been cancelled the previous year.
“I was concerned that if the money came into Elders it would be chewed up and we would not be able to go away again,” the email said.
“I have lied to Tim [operations manager] and you and feel sick to the stomach and whilst this is not an excuse, I thought it was going to be good for the team.”
According to a statement of agreed facts given to the jury, Mr Deutrom and another staff member received funds from the Elders Darwin office social club account in 2013 and 2014, as a reimbursement for funding “reward trips” to Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia.
The social club account had previously received payments from the NT News, “on the accused’s instruction”.
‘He wanted to tell me about it all along’
Mr Dunne, the first witness in the trial, told the jury about the emails and conversations he had with Mr Deutrom before sacking him at the end of October 2016.
He described a phone call with Mr Deutrom, which Mr Dunne said occurred after Elders discovered the amount taken was much more than $14,000.
“He advised me that he’d got himself into some serious financial trouble,” Mr Dunne said.
“That he’d taken a large amount of money and that he was really sorry about it and that he wanted to tell me about it all along.”
The jury also heard Mr Deutrom’s salary at Elders in Darwin was more than $200,000, excluding superannuation and a 50-per-cent “gross” commission for properties listed and sold.
The trial is listed for three weeks and Mr Dunne will continue giving evidence today.
Mr Deutrom is currently the residential sales and growth manager for Knight Frank in Darwin, according to the company’s website.