Woman wins $240k legal action against barrister

A high-profile barrister has been ordered to repay $240,000 in bad loans to a woman he befriended after visiting her massage parlour.

Salvatore (known as Sam) Di Carlo built up a friendship with Choonhwa Lee, who told the Brisbane District Court it was hard to refuse his ongoing requests when she had a good relationship with him.

In a judgment on legal action by Ms Lee handed down on Monday, Judge Suzanne Sheridan ruled the barrister pay her $240,000 with interest and costs yet to be decided.

Ms Lee, who is known as Pam Lee, told the court her friendship with Mr Di Carlo started in 2009 when he went to her home for a massage.

Lady justice statue
A Brisbane court ruled Salvatore Di Carlo must pay $240,000 with interest and costs to be decided. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

In 2014 she talked to him about buying a house as she had started to save for a deposit, the court heard.

Mr Di Carlo told her it was not a good time to buy a house for investment before talking to her about lending money.

In some conversations Mr Di Carlo said Ms Lee could make interest on money loaned to his clients.

When Ms Lee asked how she could trust his clients, the barrister replied: "If they don't pay me, I'll pay you back. Don't worry," she told the court.

"It's not really big money for me," he told her, according to Ms Lee's evidence.

She told the court Mr Di Carlo had a fancy car, showed her Rolex watches including one with a diamond and there were gold statues at his home.

"It's not like me and my family. So I trusted him," she testified.

"He's not a poor guy and especially when I found out he is a high-profile barrister, why I don't trust him?"

Ms Lee produced notes in her diary regarding amounts she loaned the barrister, saying some were in Mr Di Carlo's handwriting and signed by him.

At her request Mr Di Carlo wrote in one note that Ms Lee did "not wish to participate in this lending business anymore", she told the court.

"I told him: 'I don't want to lend you anymore. It's getting too stressful'," Ms Lee told the court.

Judge Sheridan found there was no reason not to accept Ms Lee was doing her honest best in giving evidence.

She rejected Mr Di Carlo's argument that he did not lend any money to Ms Lee.

The barrister told the court there was an agreement between him and Ms Lee that they would pool money to make loans to third parties, but he no longer had records about the amounts and dates of payments.

Judge Sheridan found no evidence of such an agreement, saying she concluded Ms Lee gave cash loans of $290,000 to Mr Di Carlo who repaid at least $50,000.

Mr Di Carlo is facing two charges of perjury allegedly committed in 2017, with a District Court trial due to be held in early 2025.

Ms Lee was convicted in 2019 of unlawful prostitution and dealing with proceeds suspected of being proceeds of crime.