One of the legitimate buyers caught up in an alleged $15 million Illawarra property scam has expressed his relief at getting his money back - just two hours after he requested it.
However, not all of the buyers have yet taken the option to get their deposits refunded, hopeful that the Avoca Park property development will go ahead at Avondale despite charges being laid against three men involved in the sale and construction of the lots.
Elie and Charbel Douna, directors of LuxLiving Homes in Albion Park Rail, were arrested in sweeping raids on February 18, along with an Illawarra real estate agent Ben Feltham after police uncovered what they allege to be a "large-scale" fraud plot.
Police allege the 33-year-old twins were using falsified documentation in an alleged attempt to obtain a $14.7 million loan to construct homes for their development, Avoca Park.
Police allege Feltham, 35, who worked at Right Choice real estate agency in Albion Park, created the false documents that had been used as contracts.
Ten contracts for the construction of 19 homes, which was stage one of a 92-home development, were legitimate while nine contracts were allegedly forged.
One buyer, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Mercury he put down a deposit on the Avoca Park lot as it was good price and it was somewhere for him to live until more land became available in Calderwood.
He spoke of being "shocked and annoyed" when news broke of the development being caught up in the alleged fraud plot, however he was relieved to get his money back.
"When we contacted the real estate for our money back, they said we would have to get LuxLiving's permission to get our deposits back from the trust fund," the man said.
"Once we contacted LuxLiving we received our money in about two hours."
Another buyer said he had requested his deposit back but had not received it yet.
Do you know more or were you affected? Message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
While another investor, who also wished to remain anonymous, said she was not "stressed" as the real estate explained there would be no issues with refunding deposits.
"I won't lose anything as my deposit is in trust with the real estate not LuxLiving so I'm just going to leave it and wait and see what happens," the woman said.
The woman said she was only concerned about whether she could still use a $25,000 building grant that she applied for. Depending on whether the development goes ahead or not, she may lose that grant as it only applies to the Avoca Park home.
A spokeswoman for Right Choice Real Estate said agent Ben Feltham has been stood down from the Albion Park office while his alleged oversight was under investigation.
"Right Choice Real Estate is not under investigation or in any way implicated or involved, and the alleged matter focuses on one individual and one isolated project," she said.
"Buyers in this instance and in every instance are protected by the signed contract.
"Our safeguards and procedures mean that the handling of any deposits for this development and any other project has been done correctly and according to best practice.
"Buyers can be reassured that all deposits are held safely in our trust account, and will remain there until their solicitor authorises otherwise.
"Many buyers have already stated that they would like to leave their deposit in trust."
The spokeswoman said solicitors were expected to provide more clarity about the next steps as the investigation progressed.
"It is important to note that responsibility for this process rests with the developer and solicitors," she said.
The brothers were charged with 19 counts of publishing false/misleading information to obtain advantage, dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and participating in a criminal group by contributing to criminal activity.
Feltham was charged with nine counts of publishing false/misleading information to obtain advantage and participating in a criminal group by contributing to criminal activity.
The Douna brothers and Feltham are scheduled to appear in Port Kembla Local Court on April 14.
LuxLiving Homes was contacted for comment but did not respond.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.