An estate agent who “borrowed” hundreds of thousands of pounds from clients and friends to keep his business alive after it “fell off a cliff” during the financial crash, must repay a slice of the money he gained from his victims.
Russell Baker, 60, ran Ashby’s Estate Agents (Devon) in Bovey Tracey.
He was given a 20-month suspended jail sentence in 2016 after pocketing clients’ cash as well as borrowing money from friends and neighbours which he failed to repay.
In January 2013, he borrowed £15,000 from a former client. The money was paid into a business account but he transferred £5,000 into his personal account on the same day.
Over the next 20 months he borrowed sums between £2,000 and £25,000 from friends and neighbours, always promising to pay it back within a specified period of time.
In total, he borrowed £157,250 and repaid less than £9,000.
Among his victims were a couple whom he duped into loaning him £22,500 for a deposit on a house. Eventually £6,000 was repaid.
He returned to Exeter Crown Court on Friday for a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing, according to www.devonlive.com.
Following discussions between prosecution and defence lawyers, it was determined that Baker derived a benefit of £400,000 from his fraud.
Of that he has already paid back £123,000 by selling off land.
The court ruled that he should pay back a further £6,542 from his pension assets and that the money must be paid to the victims.
Steve Gardiner, the investigations manager for Devon and Somerset Trading Standards, said: “It is a good amount of money to go back after a very long and painstaking Proceeds of Crime investigation.
“It does mean some of the money Baker took from his victims will be recovered and there will be a reasonable amount of compensation.
“And if Mr Baker comes into money in the future there is a potential to revisit the assets.”