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Woman awarded $3.8m after

brother sold her home and fled


THEĀ  government has been ordered to pay $3.8 million to a woman who was in cloisters in an Italian nunnery when her brother stole the title to her home and sold it from under her.

Teresa Nadia Pedulla lived with an order of nuns in Sicily and then Calabria for five years, before leaving to care for her dying father in June 2009.

While she was in Italy, her brother Fernando Rene Panetta used fraudulent means to obtain the certificate of title to her North Curl Curl home.

He took out several mortgages against the Soniver Road property, including one for $1.99 million, then sold it for $3.8 million in March this year.

Mr Panetta and his wife, Anna Lam, each received $684,890.92 from the sale and left Australia on separate flights on May 25. They have not been seen since.

The NSW Supreme Court ordered the NSW government to compensate Mrs Pedulla from the Torrens Assurance Fund.

Justice Michael Penbroke found Mrs Pedulla could claim under the Real Property Act in circumstances where the loss arises from ”having been deprived of the land, or of any estate or interest in the land, as a consequence of a fraudulent act.

The Registrar General was also ordered to pay Mrs Pedulla’s costs.

The court heard a solicitor, Lewis Fineman Yee, was ”central and causative” to the ”brazen and fraudulent conduct” of Mr Panetta.

In July and August 2006, Mr Yee obtained the certificate of title by falsely saying Mrs Pedulla was his client.

He swore a false statutory declaration, produced a forged power of attorney and witnessed Mr Panetta’s signature when the transfer of registration was lodged in March 2007 for only $1 consideration.

Mrs Pedulla didn’t discover she had lost her ownership of the house until April this year when her brother was in Italy after the death of their father.

Justice Penbroke said Mr Yee acted out of obligation to Ms Lam, with whom he had a long-term business, domestic and intimate relationship before she married Mr Panetta. However, he found Mr Yee was not an ”innocent dupe” but played a major key role in the fraud.


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