A serial fraudster letting agent has swindled more than £220,000, money taken as rents and deposits, out of more than 60 tenants and landlords.
Harrow Crown Court jailed Martin Marcus, 52, of Bushey, Hertfordshire, for four and a half years after he was found guilty of what has been described as one of the worst cases of letting agent fraud in the UK.
Marcus admitted five counts of fraud after a four-year investigation by Barnet Council’s Trading Standards team. He changed his plea to guilty seven days into his trial, admitting that he fronted a string of letting agencies and used numerous aliases between 2009 and 2015.
Marcus had been taking multiple deposits and rents for properties he had no right to rent out and used various excuses and deceptions to hold on to the money he took, leaving some would be tenants without homes and tenants and landlords thousands of pounds out of pocket.
Marcus traded under a number of different firm and company names, including: Interlocate, Corporate Relocation, Churchill Residential and JMG Residential Ltd and used personal aliases including the names Robert Martin, Martin Champ and Jeffrey Lewis.
Mr Menzies had assured landlords and tenants that their money was held in a “ring fenced client account” but Trading Standards investigators discovered transactions from his company accounts going to personal purchases for holidays and travel. Payments for mobile phones, and travelling to Spain with EasyJet and Virgin Active were uncovered.
Marcus was receiving money from landlords and tenants and defrauding both. His system was to close down each company in turn as the situation got too hot and start again under a different trading name, even continuing when he knew he was under investigation.
Cllr Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council, said:
“This trial follows a long and very complex investigation led by the council’s Trading Standards team into a fraud which left a great many people out of pocket.”
Currently in England anyone can set themselves up as a letting agent without any qualifications, though they must register with an approved client redress scheme and follow other consumer regulations. A recent change in the law will mean that client monies must be protected in a separate account and covered by insurance. In addition, a central database of rogue and banned landlords and letting agents is to be made available to local government officials.
Letting agent jailed for four and a half years https://t.co/se2smVc8rT
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) July 4, 2016