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Rogue estate agent handed 12 month suspended jail term

PUBLISHED: 15:50 29 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:47 16 August 2010

AN ESTATE agent that pocketed up to £20,000 in deposits and rent to keep his business afloat received a 12 months suspended sentence. Priyesh Patel, 27, of Gibbon Road, Nunhead, took money for deposits and rent in a desperate bid to keep his ailing busin

AN ESTATE agent that pocketed up to £20,000 in deposits and rent to keep his business afloat received a 12 months suspended sentence.

Priyesh Patel, 27, of Gibbon Road, Nunhead, took money for deposits and rent in a desperate bid to keep his ailing business Acre Estates and Lettings in Beckenham afloat, Croydon Crown Court heard.

But, as reported in the Times, the money wasn't enough to keep the business in Beckenham Road open and he fled the country.

He pleaded guilty to 18 charges of fraud and was sentenced to 12 months suspended for two years and has to carry out 200 hours unpaid work and pay £105 costs. The court heard last Friday how Patel, who has a previous conviction for deception, used the funds to pay the company's electricity and telephone bills.

He later refunded a number of landlords before facing the charges.

Prosecuting, Nicholas Mesure said Patel specialised in renting and management of property for owners in Bromley and employed staff and there were two other directors.

The company started up in 2005 and was successful until April of this year, when clients learned that their deposits were no longer protected.

Mr Mesure said: "People began to call to try to speak to him but they were unable to contact him, and desperate attempts were made to find out what was happening.

"An action group was set up but it was found that Patel had left the country."

Police traced him to Dubai and he was arrested on his return on July 3.

He told officers that he had had a good client base but things started to go wrong and he was left to do all the paperwork.

Paul Spreadborough, defending, said Patel had, at one time, around 80 properties under management. But the other working director effectively left the business and came into the office less and less often.

Mr Spreadborough said: "No money was used for personal enrichment, and everyone was paid back before he was formally charged. He has brought a great deal of shame on his family."

Judge Warwick McKinnon told Patel: "You went abroad, burying your head in the sand, but you agreed to come back to face the music and you fully co-operated with the authorities."

After the sentencing, landlord Marina Kelly, who was forced to reimburse her tenants £1,400 out of her own pocket after they left her flat in Priory Close, Beckenham, said: "I have mixed feelings about it. I feel sorry for him but at the same time what he has done is totally wrong. He should have just declared himself bankrupt.

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