A former north London letting agent who stole thousands of pounds worth of cash and belongings from rental homes by tricking other agents into releasing keys to the properties has been jailed for 30 months.
Ben Papantoniou, a former manager at Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings in Hampstead, was sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court for the crimes that he committed between June and August this year.
The 34-year-old, from Notting Hill in west London, pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud, four charges of burglary and one charge of theft.
Papantoniou managed the Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings branch in Hampstead from August 2016 until March 2017, but three months after leaving the firm he started to pose as a letting agent in order to secure keys from other agents for fake viewings. But actually he was using the keys to gain access to the properties and steal items while the occupants were out.
According to the Ham & High, he fraudulently obtained keys from agents including; Knight Frank, Chestertons, Foxtons, and Kinleigh, Folkard and Hayward, purporting to be from a different agency on each occasion.
He went on to burgle properties in Primrose Gardens, Belsize Park, Hillfield Road and Achilles Road, in West Hampstead, as well as others in south London.
Vidhur Mehra, director at Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings, told the local newspaper, “Ben Papantoniou was employed by us from August 8 2016 and his contract was terminated on March 23 2017 for reasons unrelated to his recent convictions.
“We keep a tight control of our keys. Our understanding is that Ben fraudulently posed as an employee of Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings sometime after he had left our company.”
A spokesperson for Foxtons, one of the letting agents affected confirmed they had compensated the tenants involved: “We are sorry about the distress caused to the affected tenants by this fraudster. The tenants were compensated for the loss incurred as a result of this dreadful situation.
“We’ve reviewed our security procedures as a result of this isolated incident and re-affirmed the importance of extra vigilance to our front office staff.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Kinleigh, Folkard and Hayward said: “We have robust security systems in place for holding and releasing client keys.
“This was an isolated incident and as a result our procedures have been reinforced across our network of 60 branches.”
Giles Milner, marketing director of Chestertons, commented: “As one of London’s largest lettings agents, Chestertons has a number of checks and strict procedures in place to prevent fraudulent activity such as this but we urge all agents, landlords and tenants to always remain vigilant and report or further investigate any suspicious activity.”