Former estate agent, Russell Baker, has admitted that he is guilty of nine offences of fraud amounting to £157,250.
Mr Baker, who had bought a well-known Estate Agents business called Ashby’s - was investigated by Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service after complaints relating to tenants deposits, and whether they had been paid into a government approved scheme.
Several landlords also claimed that income from was witheld from them by him despite the properties being occupied and the tenants paying their rent.
It has been reported that one landlord tried to sue the agent privately but Mr Baker managed to convince a civil court that the debt was a company debt rather than a personal one.
According to the The Exeter Daily News, the defendant's financial dealings were hard to unravel because he arranged for all of the monies paid to one of his limited companies to go into the bank accounts of another of his limited companies.
The police then became involved when Baker was alleged to have pocketed a £22,500 deposit which should have gone as a client’s deposit on a house purchase.
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for Trading Standards said: “Baker was unscrupulous in deceiving his customers and his friends. Initially some of victims didn’t see themselves as the victim of a crime, but in the end it was their willingness to support this investigation that has produced this successful conviction. This has been a complex process, involving hard work from our officers and also invaluable assistance from Devon & Cornwall Police”.
Baker has now pleaded guilty to amount to worth of fraud, but sentencing has been deferred until September to allow the former agent time to reimburse the victims under a restraint order made under the Proceeds of Crime Act.