Three unscrupulous letting agents in north London who kept tenants’ rent payments instead of passing them on to the landlords have been ordered to pay close £100,000 in compensation to their victims. This marks the end of a long-running and complex investigation by Islington Council.
At least 19 landlords and tenants have been left £105,000 out of pocket by the dodgy agents who ran London-based letting agency Crestons.
Mohammed Rayn Mashuk, 42, and Mohammed Ibrahim Ali, 37, were convicted in December 2018 of carrying on business for a fraudulent purpose, as officers of Sirs Associates Ltd, trading as Crestons, based in Islington and neighbouring boroughs.
During their five-week trial at Blackfriars Crown Court, the jury heard that the rogue operators refused to refund deposits at the end of tenancies, failed to pass on rent to landlords and did not put tenants’ deposits in protected schemes.
The trial heard testimony from more than 30 witnesses. The men were brought to justice following a lengthy and complex council investigation, partly funded by National Trading Standards (NTS), which was triggered by complaints from tenants and landlords who had fallen victim to Crestons.
The three crooks were later each sentenced to 28 months behind bars for their parts in the fraud and were disqualified from acting as directors of a company for eight years.
Last week at a confiscation hearing at Inner London Crown Court, Ahmed Ali Syed was ordered to pay £72,035.12 in compensation to three victims, and had a further £2,709.12 of criminal proceeds confiscated. Mohammed Rayn Mashuk was ordered to pay £21,717.46 in compensation to seven victims, and had a further £47,919.04 of criminal proceeds confiscated. Mohammed Ibrahim Ali was ordered to pay £5,137.46 in compensation to two victims and had a further £21,329.47 of criminal proceeds confiscated.
All orders must be paid within three months. In cases of default of payment, Syed and Mashuk would each have to serve an extra 12 months’ imprisonment, and Ali nine months’ imprisonment.
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “This confiscation order is a major victory for private tenants and landlords – not just in Islington, but right across the country.
“It is only right that these men surrender the money they duped from unwitting victims. Thanks to the determination, tenacity and hard work of our Trading Standards and legal teams, all those who were ripped off are now due to get their money back.
“Prosecutions and confiscation orders like this are rare but vital in the fight for better standards in the private housing market, where tenants often spend large proportions of their income on rent and tenancy deposits.
“The court ruling sends the message loud and clear that we won’t let rogue letting agents get away with ripping off their clients.”