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Jailed! Another 34 months for agent already guilty of assault

A former lettings agent has been jailed for almost three years after admitting conning landlords out of over £80,000.

The sentence for Frank Smart - owner of Smart Residential Letting Agents in Newmarket - came after a four year probe by Suffolk Trading Standards, which had received numerous complaints from landlords and tenants who were unable to make contact with the company after its premises in Newmarket shut in July 2018.

Smart is already serving a 28 months sentence for assault and malicious communications; the additional 34 month sentence is for two counts of fraud by abuse of position.


A spokesperson for Suffolk Trading Standards says: "Many of these landlords entrusted Smart Residential with their rental properties, and to hold tenancy deposits on their behalf.

“By law, these deposits should have been placed into a Deposit Protection Scheme – offering protection to tenants in the event of a landlord or letting agency facing financial difficulties. We believe that Mr Smart failed to use this scheme, resulting in substantial losses for his victims.

“We spoke to over 30 witnesses, with numerous landlords telling us that they didn’t receive rental income and had to refund tenancy deposits out of their own pocket. This resulted in individual losses ranging from £700 to over £8,000 and an estimated total loss in excess of £80,000.”

The Suffolk News website quotes victim statements read out at Ipswich Crown Court ahead of Smart’s latest sentencing.

Landlord Philippa Fletcher said: “The loss of rent and need to change the locks resulted in losses of more than £1,000 which we could not recover, and as pensioners, could not afford to cover. We found ourselves stressed and anxious about how we would cope in the longer term.”

Another landlord, Michael Stott, said: “I requested a meeting with Smart to check that deposits were being held securely, but he didn’t show, and his office was locked up. We tried to recoup money through a county court judgement but his creditors had already been paid and there was no money left. We have lost more than £7,000, not to mention the sleepless nights and worrying about how we will manage.”

Smart’s defence described the agent as having been overwhelmed by debt rather than being deliberately fraudulent. His defence lawyer said that, through him, Smart wished to apologise to his victims. 

Trading Standards says an application it has made to disqualify Smart as a director of any company plus compensation will be decided at a Proceeds of Crime hearing next year. 


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