Property agent David Whitefield admitted stealing £123,000 from dozens of his property landlord clients in a bid to keep his failing estate and letting agency business afloat.
The 44-year-old agent, who ran Whitefield Properties which had branches in Milton, Leek and Crewe, with his wife Tracey Whitefield, before the company fell into administration in 2014, retained rent and deposits paid by tenants, rather than passing on the cash to his landlord clients, over a period of four years.
When Whitfield’s company collapsed into administration in 2014, it was owing more than £198,000. Staff working at the company had been ordered by Whitefield to always tell landlords that he was out if they called demanding their missing rent payments.
— The Sentinel (@SentinelStaffs) April 2, 2016
Over four years, the managing director of Whitefield Properties put his landlords’ tenants’ rent and deposits in the company’s working capital account rather than keeping the money in a separate client account at the law requires.
Whitefield also failed to register deposits under the government’s deposit protection Scheme and instead simply put the cash received into the firm’s accounts.
Prosecutor Christopher Hudson said in court:
The “remaining staff had little notice to the closure and up to 2014 they were being told to chase business. Not only deposits, but rent money was used as working capital. By the end, the accounts have been described as ‘chaotic’.”
Whitefield, formerly of Newford Crescent, Milton, pleaded guilty in court to fraudulent trading between April 2010 and April 2014 and two charges of fraud between September 2010 and August 2012 and from September 2010 to April 2014.
He was handed a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 300 hours’ unpaid work. He has also been banned from being a company director for five years.
Whitefield’s defending lawyer Sarah Badrawy, said in mitigation, Whitefield was now studying a degree in computing and hoped to pursue a new career. She said: “The references given in court speak of a loving father and husband. He has shown significant remorse and regret. He is also suffering a medical condition with his heart. He was running a business that grew and he couldn’t keep up with it. He was out of his depth.”
A proceeds of crime hearing is expected to take place this month. Sentencing Whitefield, Recorder Edwin Coke said:
“I have carefully read the references and there is certainly another side to you. But don’t for one moment think this is anything like a let-off. If you re-offend then you will face prison.”
Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s trading standards team helped with the investigation into Whitefield Properties after receiving complaints about the business.
Since the sentencing his victims have criticised the leniency of Whitefield’s sentence given what they say was the seriousness of his crimes.
Reporting on this case, Stoke Sentinel were asked to point out that David Whitefield, of Whitefield Properties, has no connection whatsoever to David Whitfield from familyhomes4u, trading as AV Investments (Midlands) Ltd.
Fraudulent agent kept £123k of landlords’ funds – https://t.co/qGarZvZbYW
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) April 6, 2016