A jailed letting agent in a long-running legal saga has now been told she must repay her victims some £43,000 - but more than £200,000 has been spent on an extraordinary lifestyle of luxury.
Heather Crabb ran Drake Lettings in Plymouth, and in recent years Letting Agent Today has run several stories about her failed company and victims. Drake Lettings handled mostly student accommodation on behalf of small-scale landlords living in the area.
But now, in a Proceeds of Crime hearing, Crabb has been told she must pay back some of the money owed to victims during her four-and-a-half year spree.
Before going to jail for 42 months Crabb bought a home in Florida, a Land Rover, a Porsche and a Ford, and once spent £3,000 on a flight to New York. She also used funds to pay off previous debts.
In total over 25 victims across Devon and Cornwall were left out of pocket, according to the Proceeds of Crime hearing at Plymouth Crown Court.
Judge Paul Darlow has ruled that she had cheated a total of £241,223 from her clients and had assets worth £43,612 which must be paid back as compensation for her victims.
Crabb - who appeared over a video link from prison in Kent - risks an extension to her existing jail sentence if she does not pay.
Back in December 2016 Crabb, who was then still officially trading her Drake Homes business, explained in an email that she was unwell. Her business was shut and at the same time, it was revealed that a police investigation was being undertaken.
The email read: “Due to continued ill health, we are informing you that the portfolio of Drake Homes is being transferred to a reputable agent who will look after your interests. We are in the process of completing your final accounts accordingly and the new agent, who is well established and very experienced will be in touch in due course. Kind regards. Heather.”
However, days later Crabb was arrested by police.
She later admitted false accounting, two charges of fraud by abuse of position and two counts of theft.
Last year a Plymouth news website reported that ahead of the Proceeds of Crime hearing: “Crabb has now been caught out lying to her own lawyers after speaking to new solicitors keen to represent her. She returned to the court to apply to a judge to switch her legal aid to [a] new company.”
The article explains how Crabb criticised her previous legal representatives and made accusations about their performance; these claims were made to another legal firm which had allegedly been attempting to poach Crabb as a client.
“Crabb said from the dock that a new firm of solicitors had encouraged her to change representation. She added that she had spoken to a senior solicitor at her old firm to apologise” the website story said.