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'Despicable fraudster' conned landlords out of tens of thousands

A council chief has spoken out in support of landlords who lost money to a “despicable fraudster” who is now in prison and has been banned from being a company director.

Francis Smart, 46 and the proprietor of Smart Residential Letting Agents in Suffolk, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud in respect of retaining rent and deposits under S1 Fraud Act 2006 some two years ago after it emerged that he had broken the law by pocketing tenancy deposits instead of placing these into a Deposit Protection Scheme.

He was subsequently sentenced to 32 months per offence, to run concurrently, by a judge at Ipswich Crown Court last summer, who commented that Smart’s actions were “particularly sad” adding that he had “betrayed those who trusted you and caused a lot of distress”.

Now Trading Standards has banned Smart from being a director for the next eight years and Councillor Andrew Reid, Suffolk council’s cabinet member for public health and public protection, says: “I am continuously grateful to officers from Suffolk Trading Standards for their tireless work to rid our county of rogue traders, enabling residents to remain protected and creating a level playing field for legitimate businesses.

“Securing justice against Francis Smart is the latest in a long line of successful court cases for the team, and I have no doubt that their actions have stopped landlords, including those who bought an investment property to fund their retirement, from facing any further losses from a despicable fraudster who didn’t think twice about blatantly disregarding the law.”

Graham Crisp, head of Suffolk Trading Standards, adds: “[The] ruling also means that Smart is not allowed to be involved in the forming, marketing or running of a company for the same time period, which should bring some comfort to his clients who lost thousands of pounds due to his lies and deceit, and that he will not be able to repeat these actions once out of prison.”

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    Just another spiv agent who is now doing ‘ bird’ 🦅 .

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    The sentence was not long enough.

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    It is not enough. I had a similar experience when I had a property in Gosport. I was down the deposit and 2 months rent. The Letting Agents went bankrupt and took all our money. The company dealing with the bankruptcy accidentally put me on a distribution list for all Landlord's whom were effected, 87 in total.
    Another Landlord was angered like me and we met up and started to collate info. We worked out that they had in excess of £350,000 of money from tenants and Landlord's. Of the 87 Landlord's only 15 wanted to get involved. One elderly Landlord was owed £18,000 but she did not want to get involved. I believe she was scared by this letting agent!
    Took all our info to the Police, the bankruptcy was frozen and the Police investigated for around 7 months, out come....not in the public interest to prosecute. The DC heading it was not happy and put a lot of effort into getting trading standards involved. They couldn't be bothered and said that the trail was cold and would be very hard to get a conviction. This is some 10 years plus ago.
    Whilst these fraudsters get such weak sentences and are able to keep so much of their stolen wealth, then nothing is going to change.
    Since then, about 2 years ago had another fraudster rent a house from my brother and I. Letting agent did a poor job of checking him out and he was another fraudster. He sublet the house in a very ingenious way. He got found out when he got recalled to Prison for not staying in contact with his Probation Officer.
    I checked his references and wrote, yes wrote a letter, to an address he'd given. Turns out that he was being investigated for fraud from his very wealthy ex-partner.
    I emailed Action Fraud and guess what, no reply. Yes no reply. Spoke with the DC investigating the fraud of the ex-partner...not his jurisdiction and suggested I keep pestering the action fraud team.
    It's a bloody joke!!

    Peter Ginger-Group

    But if you had not attended to a snapped door handle Andy you would have the whole world at you and the council calling for your head. The whole of the system is ruined beyond belief made up of ever higher stealth taxes to support the support services that don't support.

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    The conservative party has basically disbanded the fraud squad. Unfortunately a lot of companies are trading on a fraudulent basis and were kept going on low interest rates.

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    When I saw the headline, I thought that they were referring to a rent dodger - should've known better.

    After all, rent dodgers are actually victims of being charged rent and it's the landlords fault if they can't pay!


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