04:34PM, Friday 17 September 2021
An estate agent who defrauded his clients of more than £182,000 in Slough has been jailed for three years.
Lee Clarke, 42, of Park Corner, Windsor, was sentenced at Reading Magistrates’ Court today (Friday) after pleading guilty to the 18 charges against him at a previous court hearing on August 9.
Police said he knowingly collected rent from tenants which he deliberately did not pass onto landlords, as well as deceiving his clients by failing to protect deposits collected from tenants as part of a deposit protection scheme, which was stipulated in tenancy agreements and required by law.
At his company Berkshire Estate Agents Limited in Windsor Road, Slough, Clarke defrauded a total of 31 clients, both tenants and landlords, between September 18, 2013, and December 12, 2018, to the sum of £182,047.63. No one else at the company was in involved in his crimes.
Investigating officer, Detective Constable Luke Simms of the Thames Valley Police Economic Crime Unit, said: “During 2018, a number of landlords and tenants reported concerns regarding Berkshire Estate Agents Limited to Slough Trading Standards.
“What followed was a thorough investigation by Slough Trading Standards and Thames Valley Police.
“Our joint investigation uncovered the effects Clarke’s criminality, both in terms of the serious financial harm to his 31 victims, but also the fear which Clarke instilled in them, with many of his victims describing Clarke as someone who was aggressive and threatening when clients made complaints.
“The sentence will be a relief to many of the victims in this case and should provide reassurance to the public and community of Slough that those who commit fraudulent crimes using a business will be brought to justice.”
Principal trading standards officer for Slough Borough Council, Peter Adshead, said that it had been a ‘complex and lengthy’ investigation where ‘many Slough residents’ had been victims of Clarke and the agency.
“The evidence was meticulously collected by the Trading Standards team and handed over to the police to assist with a successful prosecution. Cooperation with the police continued throughout the investigation,” he added.
“We hope this sentence will remind business owners that failure to comply with legislation will be investigated and brought before the courts where necessary. Landlords and tenants expect their money to be legally protected and monies handed over promptly.”
Clarke pleaded to 17 counts of fraud by false representation and one count of Section 993 of the Companies Act 2006, to carry on business of company with intent to defraud creditors or for other fraudulent purpose.
As well as his three years’ imprisonment, Clarke has also been disqualified from being a director of any company for six years.
Drivers are being warned to expect severe delays following the earlier closure of the M25 in both directions between Heathrow and the M4 exit.