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Written by rosalind renshaw

A crooked agent tried to start a new life by working as branch manager for a large chain after he admitted to police that he had committed fraud.

Keith Ranson, who stole £210,177 in tenants’ deposits, has now been jailed for two years.

Ranson, who had been running R House in Plymouth, was interviewed by police in August 2010 when he admitted to fraud between August 2007 and May 2010.

Shortly afterwards he moved to Lincolnshire and became branch manager of WH Brown, part of Sequence which is owned by Connells, in Boston. The branch handles both sales and lettings.

Last September, Ranson, 40, and another director of R House, Melanie Cairns, 52, were sent to crown court to answer fraud charges. In November, at Plymouth Crown Court, Ranson admitted the charge of fraud by abuse of position. On Friday, Ranson was put behind bars.

As branch manager in Lincolnshire, he does not appear to have worried about keeping a low profile, despite the charges hanging over him. Last November 15, for example, after his crown court appearance, he featured in the local Lincolnshire press promoting a holiday prize, and he also used the web to recruit staff.

On Friday, the court heard that Ranson used rental deposits from R House to pay for skiing trips and other holidays and to prop up his failing business.

Recorder Paul Derbyshire said: “You led the life of Riley and now you must pay.

“The recession started to bite and your income declined steeply. That was the situation faced by many thousands of people all over the country. But they did not turn to crime as you did. They battled through it, while you took the easy way out.”

Andrew Maitland, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said Ranson had become an estate agent after leaving the RAF with an injury.

He said he set up R House in about 2005 in Torpoint, Devon, and then opened a branch in Stoke.

Mr Maitland described how R House did well for two years, but in the autumn of 2007 income from the estate agency slumped by between £65,000 and £80,000.

Ranson began taking tenancy deposit money to support the business, but also to fund his “extravagant lifestyle”.

The court heard it was impossible to estimate how much money had been taken to prop up the company and how much Ranson had spent for himself.

Mr Maitland said that on one occasion Ranson used the bank card of co-director Melanie Cairns and withdrew £40,000.

He then paid off £15,000 on his credit card and spent the rest on holidays in Europe.

Mr Maitland said the company went into voluntary liquidation.

The court heard that R House’s insurers have so far paid out more than £106,000 to tenants who had lost their deposits, with other claims still being processed.
Jason Beal, appearing for Ranson, said his client panicked when his main source of income from house sales had slumped. Ranson’s health had suffered and his marriage had ended.

In the two and a half years since he confessed to his crime, Ranson had moved away from Plymouth and had been working as an estate agent but had now quit that job, said Mr Beal.

The court heard that Ranson still faces court action under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize his assets.

Cairns was also charged with abusing her position to commit fraud between August 2007 and May 2010.

She denied the allegation and the prosecution did not move to trial after she agreed to pay back £10,000 she used for home improvements. The case against Cairns, of Torpoint, Devon, was ordered to lie on file.

It is understood that R House was a NALS member. Both Sequence and NALS have been invited to comment.

Currently, although Ranson could be banned from estate agency by the Office of Fair Trading, he could not be banned from working in the lettings industry again. However, see next story.


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    Ahem - The Property Ombudsman will abitrate in a dispute between agent & landlord but does not require agents joining the scheme to have CMP insurance so landlord & tenant monies are not protected unless the agent belongs to a professional body.

    • 14 January 2013 19:26 PM
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    IHS -" In future only use an Agent who is a member of ARLA or NALS as you will be able to obtain redress if something goes wrong"

    There is redress with The Property Ombudsman too and this doesn't require ARLA or NALS membership. Just saying not all non members are like Rajinder's agents.

    • 14 January 2013 17:53 PM
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    Although I don't see what Rajinder's comments have got to do with someone stealing £210k, I definitely subscribe to IHS's comments to Rajinder: if you don't check an agent's credentials, "caveat emptor" applies. But please don't tar all agents with the same brush. I must have missed someting though: how did Rajinder get to the racist point ?? Subject agent may be a lousy rotten cowboy giving agents a bad name - but this looks like a slur too far....

    • 14 January 2013 17:53 PM
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    Rajinder - check if your new Agent is a member of a professional body such as ARLA, NALS or The Property Ombudsman. If they are, complain to the relevant body who will investigate for you and take appropriate action against the Agent.
    If not you would need to take the matter up with your local Trading Standards Office.
    In future only use an Agent who is a member of ARLA or NALS as you will be able to obtain redress if something goes wrong and you and your tenants monies will be protected.
    Good luck!

    • 14 January 2013 11:52 AM
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    I am an Asian and my Agent would not let my property and kept it vacant for two months. When I wanted to terminate the contract, then he asked 4 week's notice, which I gave. After giving the notice, this agent briskly found a troublesome tenant and colluded with my new agent to fix me properly.

    My new letting agent got deposit from this tenant and when I asked details of tenant, I was refused to disclose under Data Protection Act. I informed the RLA and they told me that this Agent is wrong. I asked for the Credit check report and I was told that she has passed but would not disclose any information. Further, this New Agent told me that they have tore the report off as they are not allowed to keep it on record.

    Now, this Agent in the contract said, they will charge £150 + VAT but they have charged me £250 + VAT.

    A real ripp off Letting Agent working not for me but for my bad tenant against me.

    Further, this Agent seeks three months' notice to terminate the contract. I trusted these Agents but did not know that he is a crook.

    I have the feeling that these Letting Agents are not only from Hell but also racists.

    Please suggest remedy.

    • 14 January 2013 09:50 AM
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    This is a classic example of the law being an ass. A pal of mine is a very well qualified engineer working on a rig off shore. He earns around £100k a year, lives in poor conditions and does not see much of his family.
    This thief steals £210k and gets two years of which he will do six months in prison before being moved to an open prison. That is over twice the income and much better living conditions. The proceeds of crime office will not pursue him and he will not be required to pay back the money.
    Our accounts supervisor stole £170k transferring it to various accounts including his wife’s. When we caught them he got three years and she got six months. She did three and he did six in prison and eight in an open prison before being let out on a tag. I had his accounts frozen with only £20k in them. We managed to get £5k of this from the proceeds of crime office but then his solicitor put a claim in for the balance saying he could not afford to give it to us. Bear in mind it was our money. The PCO agreed with him so we had too whistle. Again if you work out the sentence against the reward there are not many jobs paying that kind of money other than prime minister. So little or no deterent.

    • 14 January 2013 09:48 AM
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