Three men behind a dodgy letting agency have each been sentenced to 28 months in prison following a major investigation by Islington Council and a five-week trial.
The men, who ran companies in Islington and neighbouring boroughs using the trading name Crestons, were convicted of carrying on business for a fraudulent purpose in a trial at Blackfriars Crown Court in December 2018. Their actions left at least 19 victims around £105,000 out of pocket.
The December trial heard testimony from more than 30 witnesses. Between 2014 and 2016, Crestons failed to refund deposits to private tenants at the end of their tenancies, failed to pass on rent to landlords, and failed to put tenants’ deposits in an approved protection scheme.
In a sentencing hearing at Blackfriars Crown Court yesterday (Thursday, January 17) Mohammed Rayn Mashuk, Mohammed Ibrahim Ali and Ahmed Ali Syed were told that they will each have to serve at least half of their 28-month sentence before being released on licence. They were also each disqualified from acting as a director of a company for a period of 8 years.
In her sentencing, HHJ Sullivan said: “This is a case of deliberate reckless trading carried out over a lengthy period of time” and that “offences of this nature undermine confidence in the lettings sector”.
The lengthy and complex council investigation, partly funded by the National Trading Standards (NTS), was triggered by complaints from tenants and landlords who had fallen victim to Crestons.
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said:
“We welcome this landmark sentence, which is a major victory for private tenants and landlords not just in Islington but across the country and sends the message loud and clear that rogue letting agencies cannot rip off their clients and get away with it.
“In London’s crowded rental market, tenants are spending huge percentages of their income on rent and rental deposits, so it’s vital that they are protected from bad behaviour by shady letting agents.”
Isobel Thomson, CEO of the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), said:
“NALS welcomes the outcome of this case which demonstrates that agents who commit crimes will be prosecuted. NALS will continue to work with Islington Council to ensure that consumers are protected and we stop these criminal agents from tarnishing the reputation of the sector as a whole.
“Thanks to the work of Trading Standards the defendants in the case have been given a custodial jail sentence. It is only through the courts imposing severe sentences such as these that anyone tempted to behave in this way will be deterred.”