A crooked lettings agent who illegally pocketed tenants’ deposits to pay for his gambling addiction and lavish lifestyle has been convicted of fraud following a major investigation by Redbridge council in London.
Usman Khalil of Ilford was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment, suspended for two years at Snaresbrook Crown Court, after leaving at least seven victims £20,000 out of pocket.
His Honour Judge West-Knights QC told Khalil: “You had no basis to take holding deposits as you were not the sole agent. The reality was that you were gambling away your clients’ money.
“Vulnerable people, people of low income, desperate for a home were using you as an agent of last resort. They gave you all their money and more.”
The investigation was triggered after a demonstration in 2015 by victims outside Khalil’s now defunct Ilford business, Home Hunter Properties Ltd, was brought to the council’s attention.
The conviction follows a probe by Trading Standards, supported by the council’s in-house legal team and Action Fraud.
They found that Khalil accepted holding deposits and advance rent for properties but then refunded with a cheque which bounced - despite having sufficient cash in other accounts.
As part of the scam, Khalil advertised a string of properties that already had people living in them.
One couple, who lost thousands of pounds, were unable to pay for a deposit or rent for alternative accommodation after being conned by Khalil.
Khalil pleaded not guilty at a trial in August 2018, which was halted because he was taken ill. He changed his plea to guilty prior to the scheduled re-trial.
Khalil was ordered to pay back £12,350 and was disqualified from being a company director for seven years. He must also seek help for his alcohol and gambling addictions.
A council spokesman says: “This is a major victory in our fight against rogue traders and sends a very clear message that we will not tolerate landlords and lettings agents who think they can rip off our residents and get away with it.
“The case has exposed an appalling abuse of the law and a major con artist who devastated the lives of vulnerable people desperate to find a place to live.”