Three men have received prison sentences of up to 28 months after a nationwide lettings scam was unearthed by trading standards officers, the police and a local authority.
The three used false aliases and made up business names to convince unwitting landlords and tenants that they were running a legitimate agency, before taking large deposits and never returning them.
Adam Coote was sentenced to 28 months in prison; Andrew Rickard received 18 months in prison; and Sahila Kauser was also sentenced to an 18 month custodial sentence suspended for two years, with 140 hours unpaid work and a 12 month supervision order.
All three were sentenced for conspiracy to commit fraud.
Victims were shown around properties and told that a credit check was required before they could move in. Potential tenants were then told that they had failed and were asked for six-months of rent in advance.
A number then got access to the properties, but the money was not passed on to the landlords. Tenants were also told that their utility bills were covered but in actual fact these were not being paid.
Serviced offices in Mayfair, Birmingham and Bristol were used, giving the impression of established businesses; these were often left quickly and payments defaulted on.
A number of different business names helped hide the fraud, including Belgravia Property Group, Carlton Residential, Park Lane Residential Ltd and Mayfair Residential.
Adam Coote used the names Jordan Lawson, Elliot Portman and Lewis Goldman to conceal his identity, while Sahila Kauser posed as Jasmine Khan, Zara Khan and Zara Kauser. Andrew Rickard used Andrew Rommel and Joshua Benson.
Coote has also changed his name via deed poll on a number of occasions, going from Adam Coote to Elliot Joshua Wilson in 2006, then becoming Elliot Portman before his latest offence.
He has previously served a sentence of four years for fraud in 2009 and it is believed that he met Andrew Rickard in prison when they hatched the plan.
Twenty-one victims provided statements to the Westminster city council investigation with losses amounting to roughly £26,000. A multi-region trading standards team and the Metropolitan Police were also involved.