An agent who is said to have driven around in a Maserati complete with personalised number plates has been sentenced after admitting fraud to do with tenancy deposits.
Keith Martin, 51, the boss of Seekers UK, was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work for the communities.
He continues to run his business, where EYE spoke to him just over a month ago.
In court it was said that Martin earned £100,000 a year and cheated a system designed to protect tenants’ deposits.
He had “conned” the Deposit Protection Scheme staff into releasing tenants’ money by posing on the phone as the tenants themselves.
Martin and Seekers UK each admitted eight charges of fraud and engaging in a banned commercial practice.
Canterbury Crown Court heard that the seven victims had been vulnerable. Some had had to wait for between two to three years before being repaid the money.
One victim said in a statement read out in court: “He used his charm to cover up his lack of morals”.
The frauds took place in 2012 and 2013.
The prosecutor said that tenants on benefits had turned to Seekers UK – with offices in Ashford and Herne Bay – because other agents would not accept people on benefits.
Seekers UK has returned to the DPS, but the court heard that staff have been instructed not to handle any inquiries from Martin.
Defending, Andrew Turton said the charges involved only seven of the 708 deposits held by the company.
Martin had very much regretted what had happened, the court heard.
In September Martin told EYE that he had pleaded guilty to the eight charges, involving £5,500 worth of tenants’ deposits.
However, he said that he had been trying to get the tenants’ deposits back for them by circumventing the process, and that no money had been unaccounted for. He had been trying to clear his name for three years.
He told EYE: “I must emphasise that at the start of the process we signed cheques over to the tenants.
“We have proved where every penny paid by the DPS went, and we clearly demonstrated that it wasn’t to us.”
He added in our interview with him: “Fraud is a very harsh word for what I did.”
The sentencing is reported here
EYE’s earlier report is here