A rogue estate agent has avoided jail despite being branded by the Judge as ‘thoroughly dishonest’.
Exeter Crown Court heard that Devon Estate Agency Martin & Co was forced to report their Sales Manager Andrew Boyne to police after discovering he was running a lettings scam and was also stealing money from the firm.
Devon Live reported that Boyne was using the Gumtree website to advertise properties which the agency had for sale, pretending they were available to let. He used a mobile phone to arrange viewings and would demand holding fees and advance rent, taking up to £850 from each of 13 clients and then stopped taking their calls.
The impact was more than financial, one family were left homeless after paying a deposit, giving notice on their own accommodation and then finding that the rental was nothing more than a scam.
Boyne, of Grenville Road, Teignmouth, and formerly of Queen Street, Exeter, admitted theft and 13 counts of fraud.
Boyne did receive a 20 month jail sentence, but it was suspended for two years. He was also ordered to do 250 hours unpaid work and pay £5,000 compensation by Judge Erik Salomonsen.
The Judge told Boyne, who now works in a Plymouth Call Centre:
“You are a thoroughly dishonest man. This was not one offence carried out on the spur of the moment. You formed the view, as an intelligent man, these were offences which it was possible to commit. You used your position working for Mr Perring and your Gumtree account to remove relatively small amounts from people who could ill afford to lose it. The consequence to one man was that he became homeless. These were financial crimes, but they were not victimless crimes. You have come within a whisker of going to prison.”
Mr Lee Bremridge, defending, said Boyne had got into financial difficulties as a result of losing his previous well paid job as an estate agent as a result of being accused of rape, for which he was found not guilty by a jury. He claimed the Defendant had become depressed while on bail for two years awaiting his trial and started gambling. This led him to fall into debt and he was being threatened by people who had lent him money.
Chris Perring, managing director at Martin and Co, welcomed the sentence and said Boyne had been brought to justice due to cooperation between local estate agents who deplored his actions.
Mr Perring, who is also the vice-chairman of the Exeter Estate Agents Association, thanked detectives who worked on the case, saying:
“We don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as this person. If I find this sort of thing happening I go to the ends of the earth to expose it. The good news coming out of it is that we are now all aware of this level of crime and we all now talk a lot more about potential people we suspect. If anyone suspects activity we will let each other know. As a group we deplore this sort of activity and want to work together where we can to protect clients interests and also catch these sorts of people.”
Mr. Perring also thanked the police for their efforts in bringing Boyne to justice.