A lettings agent has been jailed for three years for defrauding tenants and landlords out of more than £182,000.
Lee Clarke, 42, of Park Corner, Windsor, was director of Berkshire Estate Agents in Slough.
He disappeared in 2019 after being investigated by Slough Trading Standards and was expelled from The Property Ombudsman for failing to pay money back to complainants as ordered.
The disgraced agent was finally put to justice last week, though, following investigations by Thames Valley Police and Slough Trading Standards.
Officers said that between 18 September 2013 and 12 December 2018, Clarke defrauded a total of 31 clients, both tenants and landlords, to the sum of £182,047.63.
Investigating officer, Detective Constable Luke Simms of the Thames Valley Police Economic Crime Unit, said: “Lee Clarke started a company called Berkshire Estate Agents Limited in Windsor Road, Slough. No-one else employed by the company was involved in Clarke’s crimes, which took place
“Clarke knowingly collected rent from tenants but then deliberately chose not to pass on this rent to landlords. Clarke also deceived his clients by failing to protect deposits collected from tenants as part of a deposit protection scheme, as stipulated by tenancy agreements and as required by law.
“During 2018, a number of landlords and tenants reported concerns regarding Berkshire Estate Agents Limited to Slough Trading Standards.
“What followed was a thorough investigation by Slough Trading Standards and Thames Valley Police.
“Our joint investigation uncovered the effects Clarke’s criminality, both in terms of the serious financial harm to his 31 victims, but also the fear which Clarke instilled in them, with many of his victims describing Clarke as someone who was aggressive and threatening when clients made complaints.
“The sentence will be a relief to many of the victims in this case and should provide reassurance to the public and community of Slough that those who commit fraudulent crimes using a business will be brought to justice.”
Clarke has also been disqualified from being a director of any company for six years.
He pleaded guilty to the 18 charges against him at a previous court hearing on 9 August this year.
He also pleaded guilty to 17 counts of fraud by false representation and one count of Section 993 of the Companies Act 2006, to carry on business of company with intent to defraud creditors or for other fraudulent purpose.
Principal Trading Standards Officer for Slough Borough Council, Peter Adshead added: “This has been a complex and lengthy investigation where many Slough residents were victims of this man and the agency.
“The evidence was meticulously collected by the Trading Standards team and handed over to the police to assist with a successful prosecution. Cooperation with the police continued throughout the investigation.
“We hope this sentence will remind business owners that failure to comply with legislation will be investigated and brought before the courts where necessary.
“Landlords and tenants expect their money to be legally protected and monies handed over promptly.”