Conman who posed as letting agent to fleece tenants is jailed after serving time for same fraud

A fraudster who posed as a letting agent and conned tenants out of over £25,000 has been jailed.

Seven years ago, Adam Coote, 36, from Shoreditch London, was jailed for an identical scam, when he used a different name plus what was described as a string of pseudonyms.

The case once again highlights the worrying ease with which anyone can set up a letting agency and take money off members of the public.

Coote was sentenced for his latest scam by Judge Jeffrey Pegden at Southwark Crown Court and received 28 months in jail.

His accomplices Andrew Rickard, 51, and Sahila Kauser, 34, had been sentenced earlier – Rickard to 18 months in jail and Kauser to 18 months suspended for two years, so that she could look after the couple’s children.

Ringleader Coote began his latest scam shortly after being released from a four-year sentence for carrying out similar operations in the north and midlands.

Using the name Elliot Wilson, he had set up Kensington Real Estate in Liverpool. Tenants paid deposits and rent upfront, but much of the money never went to the landlords.

Wilson moved on to both Birmingham and Leeds, and eventually handed himself in after seeing himself on Crimewatch.

It was in prison for those crimes that Coote met Rickard, who was serving a sentence for cannabis dealing.

Coote, Rickard and Kauser went on to set up a new scam, involving fake agencies with upmarket names such as Belgravia Property Group, Mayfair Residential and Park Lane Residential, and which offered properties in London, Bristol, Birmingham and Walsall.

They made potential tenants hand over six months’ rent after telling them they had failed credit checks. Altogether they made £26,585 from 21 tenants in this way, covering their tracks by carrying out some legitimate transactions.

Victims, who would typically go to what they believed was their new rental home only to find someone else already living there, complained to police.

Prosecutor Warwick Tatford said: “In its simplest form the fraud involved establishing false letting agencies which would be used to approach landlords who were selling properties on the internet.

“The defendants were able to secure access to the properties and keys, and a number of prospective tenants would then be shown around the properties.”

He added: “Prospective tenants were provided with access keys of the properties and when they intended to move in to the property they would find there was already a tenant in place who had also signed a tenancy with the company.”

Coote, appearing at court via video link, admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

The case underlines the current lack of controls in the industry, by which anyone can set up as a letting agent – even if they have just come out of prison for fraud.

It is however likely that Coote would be included on a blacklist of criminal agents and landlords due to go live next year, but which is not intended to be open to the public to check. There will also be the ability to ban bad agents. It is not clear how it would deal with pseudonyms.

Fake agents who ripped off 21 tenants to tune of £26,000 are sentenced

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3 Comments

  1. Robert May

    I’ve built and demonstrated  a system that detects rogue-ing by agents and individuals like this, it detects likely frauds before anyone even views a suspect property and can flag up a warning to alert prospective tenants all is not what it seems. I can also notify the redress schemes of agents  advertising without redress in place

    When Eye covered the Slough (London Road) scam I used the system to identify the false Gumtree account used to scam 17  applicants out of cash, from there I was identify  the original Gumtree advert for the property and pass the investigating officer details of the person who was running the scam. (While investigating that case, it showed up  another 4 cases in a single postcode by a different scammer)

    With cooperation from the redress and deposit scheme operators, I can turn on a system that identifies this and protects the public and agents from false agents and rogue agencies.

     

     

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    1. fluter

      What have the redress and deposit scheme operators said to your proposal Robert?

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      1. Robert May

        I haven’t spoken to the deposit schemes yet, I’m trying to eat this salami one slither at a time!

        The redress schemes are unable to allow a list of agents with redress (despite the information being in the public domain) “you’ll have to use the search function on the website to make individual agent searches”

        This is a bit like trying to run an ANPR system to catch crooks but having to type individual registration numbers into the DVLA site.

        I  have to say I don’t understand the attitude as well as cautioning applicants about rogue agents, I would also be able to highlight redress leads back to the  3 schemes. If agents knew as soon as their redress lapsed their listings would be flagged up as rogue, compliance with legislation would improve.

        In one case I identified it looked like the member of staff was using their office account to upload spoof properties, linking  rogue adverts back through a firm’s redress scheme would make life difficult  for deceitful staff to operate.

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