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Stealing from the dead — fair game in Grubisa’s world

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Dominique Grubisa and her "students" gloating about taking money from a deceased estate (Screenshot via Vimeo)

Dominique Grubisa involved herself in the misappropriation of money from a deceased estate, as IA reports.

IN FEBRUARY 2015, fraudulent property and law “expert” Dominique Grubisa held a seminar about negotiation in which she mixed her wisdom regarding negotiation with case studies of student deals. The seminar has formed part of Grubisa’s negotiation strategies taught to her students.

Grubisa invited two of her students, Joe Gallagher and Laura Fox to speak about a deal they had put together with Grubisa’s help. It involved a property in the Perth suburb of Embleton. The discussion occurred in a video that was taken down shortly after the publication of this story. After many stories about Grubisa’s activities, not much about her is shocking these days. This one was.

The Embleton deal started with Joe and Laura matching up the name of the homeowner from a court list with property data. Laura mentioned they wrote a couple of letters that were “a little bit cheeky” and that Joe went and knocked on the door.

The lady who answered the door was Jeanette. Joe asked her whether she was looking to sell. Jeanette’s answer was that were she to sell the property, she “would probably get arrested”. The reason is that Jeanette didn’t own the property. She was the daughter of the lady who was registered as owner. Jeanette’s mother passed away a few years before, but no one had dealt with the administration of her estate. From the story Joe and Laura tell, Jeanette was a rather vulnerable person.

Under her “takeover” method, Grubisa teaches her students how to get a distressed homeowner to sign documents, including a power of attorney so that the student can sell the property in the name of the owner. That wasn’t an option in this case because the registered owner was deceased.

Joe said they got in contact with Dominique to work out a way to go about the deal. Laura said that after much consultation with Dominique, they came up with the idea to purchase the mortgage. Had the existing lender sold the property, it would have had an obligation to act in good faith and seek to obtain the best price reasonably obtainable.

About the plan, Grubisa noted:

“The only way to get this property was to step into the bank’s shoes so that they [Laura and Joe] could become mortgagee in possession.”

Laura and Joe offered to pay Jeanette rent and bond for a year and to pay her $80,000 once the property was sold. They took her shopping to buy a bed and it seems, somewhat reluctantly, also agreed to buy her a washing machine and a new fridge. The laughing of the audience when the fridge is mentioned speaks to the mentality of Grubisa’s followers — it suggests they thought Jeanette was expecting a bit much.

The total cost of Joe and Laura’s generosity (leaving aside the $80,000) payment was around $26,000. The debt due under the mortgage was $152,000.

A reader might ask why would Laura and Joe be paying Jeanette this money. The answer is that there was a bigger game in play. Joe and Laura, who were to step into the shoes of the existing lender, were not simply seeking to be paid the money owing under the mortgage but to pocket the entire proceeds from the sale of the property, less the money paid to Jeanette and paying out the existing loan.

Had the existing lender sold the property, it would have recovered the debt owing to it and its costs of recovery and sale. The remainder would have belonged to the estate of Jeannette’s mother.

Grubisa acknowledged that there was still the question of equity in the house, which might become an issue “if they [Joe and Laura] don’t keep this lady close”. In speaking about the items Joe and Laura bought for the lady, Grubisa said, “It’s money well spent for small things that get commitment and consistency”.

When Laura talked about Jeanette’s excitement about being able to buy some cheap bed linen (for which Laura and Joe paid), Grubisa’s response was, “Oh, bless”. Oh, blessed is Jeanette, who will soon see the equity in her mother’s home disappear.

At this point, an audience member piped up and asked, “But isn’t there another sister?”. We won’t repeat the words used to describe the sister, but both Joe and Grubisa use quite derogatory language about Jeanette and her sister in the video. The audience laughed at the comments — an audience rather clueless about the reality of the strategy in play.

Jeanette’s sister, of course, might have felt some entitlement to be paid money from the sale of the property. About that, there was a cunning plan. When the property was to be sold, it wouldn’t be put on the open market. Grubisa said, “Because we don’t want, they [Joe and Laura] don’t want, the sister to see an ad”.

An audience member asked Grubisa whether the sale (by Laura and Joe) would be as mortgagee in possession.

Grubisa responded [IA Emphasis]:

“The mortgage has a term in it that says basically, if we have to sell as mortgagee in possession, we can charge all of our fees, charges, out of pockets and everything and load the bill. So, they are just doing what the banks do and not giving change.”

Grubisa is currently the subject of proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in the Federal Court for alleged misleading and deceptive conduct.

In a press statement issued on 16 December 2022, then-deputy chair of the ACCC, Delia Rickard, said:

'We allege that DG Institute and Ms Grubisa misrepresented to prospective students that the strategy taught in the Real Estate Rescue program would allow them to assist distressed homeowners to sell their property and retain some of the equity, when otherwise the homeowner would lose their equity if the bank repossessed, when this was not the case.'

But it is worth tracking what Laura has said previously about such issues and how Grubisa’s students are led into believing what she says.

In September 2022, we reported on an exchange of messages on Grubisa’s Property Connect Facebook group about the plight of a distressed homeowner. A student published a post on the page about a comment made by a distressed homeowner.

He said:

‘I was under the impression that in a mortgagee repossession, the distressed homeowner loses whatever equity is in the home. But this distressed owner says he will be entitled to whatever equity is left over after all costs [are] factored in a foreclosure.’

We reported that the student was criticised and put on the back foot despite the owner being correct.

Laura happened to add her own advice to the post:

(Screenshot via Facebook)

She added:

(Screenshot via Facebook)

What Grubisa was promoting in this deal should have rang alarm bells to her audience and especially to Laura and Joe. If nothing else did, then the words from Grubisa that followed should have alerted them. Grubisa explained that she put Laura and Joe “onto” her solicitor and that her solicitor was saying “don’t touch it, there’s risk here”

Speaking about that solicitor, Grubisa added:

“He’s very much interested in guarding himself and putting in emails as often as possible, walk away, walk away, this is really bad, this is really risky.”

She continued:

“It is a massive risk but let’s look at the numbers and you’ll see why it’s a risk worth taking.”

Next appeared a slide showing the numbers and a projected profit of $260,000 after payment of all costs.

Laura laughed and said, “So it’s worth the risk”. Some might think robbing a bank is worth the risk. We doubt Joe and Laura are the sort of people who would think that a risk worth taking. 

Laura and Joe went on to become mentors in Grubisa’s Elite Mentoring Program, so perhaps they fit Grubisa’s view of her best students who:

“...don’t ask questions. They do what they’re told and they don’t ask why.”

Somehow, they were convinced it was acceptable to pocket the equity from Jeanette’s mother’s estate. Perhaps because, as Laura suggested, no one was monitoring where the rest of the money was going.  

In his recent decision in respect of Grubisa’s application for a review of a banning order by ASIC against her, deputy president Bernard McCabe of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal said in respect of the “short sale” strategy promoted by Grubisa:

‘The absence of a ready explanation of how the short sale strategy described in at least some of the case studies is lawful is startling given that strategy rings so many alarm bells.’

Laura and Joe’s real-life case study should set off alarm bells in the offices of regulators across the country.

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