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Agency staff member who stole £21,000 in deposits walks free from court

A Bairstow Eves letting agent who stole over £21,000 in tenants’ deposits over two years to pay her own payday loan debts has walked free from court.

The Braintree and Witham Times reports that Tracey Skeels, of Westcliff, stole the deposits while working as what was described as a “loyal and hardworking” agent at the company’s local office.

However, apparently overcome with guilt, she confessed to the offence at the end of last year.

She did this by leaving to a superior saying: “I don’t know where to start really. All I can say is I have been taking money from the company for the last two years. I am so ashamed but I am glad it’s all out in the open.”

Skeels then walked out of the office without waiting for a response, leaving on her desk paperwork highlighting the fraudulent transactions. The total involved in the scam was £21,394.

Later, Skeels attended two disciplinary hearings during which she talked the branch managers through the thefts; she explained that she herself owed over £10,000 to Wonga and Lending Street.

The Braintree and Witham Times claims that although the company has strict rules on the handling and management reporting of monies received, it had a policy of transferring sums to other parts of the business when they were available. This allowed Skeels to create fraudulent invoices from companies for work on properties that had not been done.

Sentencing her to eight months in prison, suspended for 18 months, Judge Ian Graham said: “I accept you got into this by getting into debt with payday loans. This is rather different from past cases in that you made a full confession to your employers and the police.”

Skeels must also complete 200 hours of unpaid work.

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