Fraud & economic crime:
The Crown Prosecution Service has reported on its website that last week a property agent was sentenced to five years in prison for spending £700,000 in rent he had collected on behalf of his landlord clients.
Jeffrey Gadsden, 60, who ran Walkers Professional Property Services in Brentwood, Essex had collected the rent and service charges on behalf of landlords, the company’s landlord clients, involving more than 150 properties across the east of England.
The funds were kept correctly in client accounts, with rent normally sent to the property owners on a regular basis, but the money in question never reached its rightful destinations, Snaresbrook Crown Court was told.
In June 2013 the business ran into financial difficulties and Gadsden began spending his clients’ money on the day-to-day running of his business to keep it afloat.
When some of his landlord victims attended Gadsden’s company offices to collect their money, they found the offices were closed down and the business had gone into liquidation.
Gadsden received five years in prison for the first count of fraud and four years in prison for the remaining seven counts to run concurrently.
Stephen Rowland, from the CPS, said:
“Jeffrey Gadsden was trusted by his clients to collect the money received in rent on their properties and properly look after funds collected for building work.
“Instead he used this money to keep his business afloat, leaving them thousands of pounds out of pocket.
“Gadsden denied fraud but the CPS presented evidence including client accounts analysed by a financial accountant that showed he had stolen money from each victim.”
Choosing a good agent
Choosing a reputable letting agent is a vital part of running a successful landlording business. Landlords commonly fail to properly vet their letting agents or keep an eye on how the agent’s business is being run. Reputable agents are members of a proper professional association, including a dispute resolution service. They will soon be require to have an insurance backed client money protection (CMP) scheme in place.