A Staffordshire letting agent who stole £123,000 from landlords and tenants has been given a suspended prison sentence which has been criticised by his victims.
David Whitefield ran Whitefield Properties which had branches in Milton, Leek and Crewe. Over a four-year period he pocketed the rent and deposits paid by tenants rather than passing on the cash to landlords or deposit protection schemes.
Whitefield Properties eventually collapsed into administration in 2014, owing more than £198,000.
Whitefield pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading and two counts of fraud at Stafford Crown Court last week. He has been issued a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 300 hours’ unpaid work. He has also been banned from being a company director for five years.
His victims criticised the 'lenient' sentence when speaking to the Stoke Sentinel. Landlord Peter Heard told the paper he was owed £900 in rent that has never been paid. He said: "I feel he should have had an immediate prison sentence for what he has done."
Over four years, Whitefield put tenants' rent and deposits in the company's 'working capital' account. An investigation found the 44-year-old made 1,200 payments totalling £123,000. But despite his fraud, Whitefield Properties collapsed in 2014, owing £198,000.
The court heard how staff working for David Whitefield were ordered to tell landlords he was out if they called demanding their missing rent.