A crooked letting agent took £220,000 from tenants and landlords and has been exposed as buying a home in Florida, renting a luxury apartment, spending £3,000 on a flight to New York, and owning both a Land Rover and a Porsche.
A court in Plymouth has heard that Heather Crabb, who owned and operated Drake Homes lettings agency from 2005 until 2016, deflected criticism from landlords and student tenants who were out of pocket by threatening them with legal action for defamation as rumours swirled around her business.
Crabb also used some of her lettings clients’ money to set up another business, a tanning salon elsewhere in Plymouth.
Now she has been formally accused of committing theft, fraud and false accounting between March 2013 and December 2017.
Meanwhile a co-defendent who helped Crabb run the agency - Jill Wood - took £30,000 from the company to help buy a home in Exeter for her son.
Wood has admitted false accounting, juggling money between various accounts when the students’ deposits should have been protected.
The court has heard a landlord victim of the pair say: “We feel cheated and let down by someone who abused her trusted position. Her lavish lifestyle with expensive vehicles and extravagant properties seem to have been funded by her greed and dishonesty.”
Another victim, a single mother, told the court: “This theft of rents all but sunk me. I now owe my family £14,000 I needed to stop going broke. I am furious.”
A barrister for Crabb told the court she accept she was going to receive a prison sentence, and said she admitted dishonesty but that the business also suffered mismanagement and misfortune.
“When the business went under, she lost everything. She has turned into a physical wreck, often shaking and crying when talking about this matter. She is on a cocktail of drugs” he said.
Crabb was hailed for three and a half years in prison; Wood received a 22 month sentence suspended for two years.
Prosecutors and police have launched legal action to seize Crabb’s assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
You can see local media reports here.